Chapter Twenty-One: Aftermath III
Faith couldn't get to sleep so right now she is walking into the dining hall to get a snack. Upon entering she finds a very forlorn looking Clark sitting at a table picking at a chicken. She makes her way over to him. “What is it with you and chicken?” she just has to ask since this is the exact same position she found him in last time she couldn't sleep.
Clark looks up, his eyes slightly red from crying. He hadn't even bothered even trying to find a room because he knew he would never manage to get to sleep. “Hey Faith,” he says incredibly sadly.
Crap! Faith thinks to herself. She sits herself down across from him. “You and B have a fight?”
Clark smiles very sadly. “That obvious huh?”
Faith just shrugs kind of helpless and at a loss what to say.
Clark rubs his hands across his face. “I don't know how we got into it. I never planned to fight with her. She just said some stuff...I said some things...,” he shakes his head. “I don't even know where it came from. I know she is hurting. So am I but she was just being so...so...”
“So what?” Faith asks.
“I don't want to say it. It would make me sound unfeeling which I just have to say I am not.”
“She was being totally irrational wasn't she,” Faith guesses from what she has seen of Buffy these last few days.
“You said it. Not me.” Clark's anger is still simmering below the surface. “It is just...God! The nerve of her to accuse me of even thinking of...” he trails off when he realises the person Buffy accused him of planning to sleep with is across the table.
Faith studies Clark carefully. What in the hell did B say to him to get him this worked up she wonders. Sensing that perhaps she better let him cool off she changes subjects. “How are you feeling...physically?” she asks him.
“A little sore still but I'm alright,” he answers.
Which frankly is pretty amazing considering he was a bloody, beaten pulp a few days ago. Faith moves on again. “Xander said that Willow is doing a little better,” she mentions.
“That's good,” Clark says kinda flatly. “I saw her and Chloe head for bed earlier but I never really noticed how she was doing.” He feels kind of guilty about that. It must have appeared in his voice.
“Hey you've got some major stuff to deal with yourself. I'm sure Will would understand.”
Clark picks at his chicken some more while Faith herself grabs a bit and pops it in her mouth. Then all of a sudden Clark slams his fist down on the table shattering it.
Whoa and what the hell?! Faith thinks. She tentatively reaches for Clark's fist and takes it in her hand feeling the tension in it. “Clark. What is it?”
Clark looks at her and she can see these tears in his eyes. “I thought she knew me,” he says tearfully.
“I'm sure she does. She is just...her mind is screwed up at the moment.”
Clark shakes his head. “She said she can't be near me at the minute because I remind her of Karen then when I agree to go find another room so to give her space she insinuates...” God he is almost choked up in rage here. “She insinuates that you would offer me your bed to 'share' and that I would accept.”
Faith's eyes widen. She can get what Clark means easily enough. Hell she is the Queen of innuendo but that B would think that Clark of all people would cheat is just nuts. In fact Faith herself is a little insulted. She is not quite the person she use to be. She has not once made a move on Clark and she has no intention to either despite the fact he is definitely screwable. Heck she would have him in her top three totally hot guys she would like to screw before she dies but she doesn't because she respects what Buffy and Clark have. “Why would she think that?” Faith asks him and Clark tells her about what future Dawn said supposedly happened between himself and her after Buffy's death.
“Yeah but that future is gone isn't it?”
“I think so. I hope so.”
“I'm sure everything will be alright,” she tries to assure Clark. “I mean love conquers all and all that.”
“Yeah,” Clark says with no real belief. There is this little voice in his head that keeps saying that Buffy will never get over this. That she will never be able to look at him again. Let alone let him touch her. That she will forever flinch at his touch like she did a few hours ago. That they can never get back to what they has before their trip to the future.
The reaction to these thoughts is immediate. Tears roll down Clark's face and it breaks even Faith's hardened heart to see it so she does the only thing she can think of to do and that is to wrap her arms around him and hold him in an attempt to comfort him. Clark wraps his arms around Faith and tries to take what little comfort he can to soothe his broken heart.
“I knew it!!!” an angry accusatory voice shouts out.
Faith and Clark turns their heads to find Buffy at the doorway looking utterly pissed off.
“Knew what exactly?” Clark asks with strange naivety at this point.
“Don't play dumb with me Clark!” Buffy says in a raised voice. “You and her. I know what you were about to do.”
Clark looks at Faith and the position they are in and it clicks. “Buffy you can't possible think...,” Clark stops for a moment. No-one notices the sliver of red that has suddenly appeared amongst the gold of his own engagement ring or the momentary crimson glow of his eyes. When he starts to speak again his attitude has completely changed. “You know what I don't have to defend myself when I haven't done anything.”
Buffy's eyebrows rise up. “Oh I see. In your mind cheating on your fiancée is not wrong. I guess relationships on Krypton were kind of liberal were they.”
Faith pulls back from Clark. “B I don't know what you think is going on...”
Buffy cuts her off. “Say one more word Faith and I will finish what I started on that rooftop back when you were working for the Mayor.” She is referring to her and Faith's fight to the death when she stabbed Faith right in the gut.
“Alright,” Clark says having had enough. “I know you're hurting Buffy but this is just madness.”
Buffy laughs a bitter laugh. “Of course. This is all in my mind isn't it. Yeah that's right. I must be back in that mental institution and all this is a delusion.”
“Well you are certainly delusional,” Clark confirms for her.
Faith watches on noting that both Clark and Buffy are acting way out of character. Something is very, very wrong here.
“You obnoxious, unfeeling, hypocritical, adulterous...ALIEN!!!”
“Is that suppose to be insulting because I hate to break it to you sweetheart but I am an alien,” Clark says sounding like his alter ego Kal because he is Kal right now thanks to a certain formless foe that used a little of its power to alter the molecular composition of Clark's engagement ring as well as its continued ability to unknowingly whisper in his ear.
Faith whistles loudly to get both of their attentions. “Alright. Enough!!! You are both under a spell or something so lets just calm down, go wake up our friends and work this out.”
“There is nothing to 'work out',” Buffy says with absolute certainty even though a small voice in the back of her mind is screaming at her that something is wrong.
“Oh I have to agree,” Clark says with the same certainty. “God. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. Well actually I do I thought you could help me in my wish to help the human race but you know what you can't. Your every solution to a problem is to hit it. You can't help me. All you will do is hinder me.”
“Oh that is rich Mister 'I am vulnerable to magic' when 50% of the time it is magic we have to fight. You know what you can't help us either.”
“Well boo hoo. See if I care.”
“Guys stop!” Faith pleads.
“You stay out of this!” Buffy tells Faith.
“Hey don't you tell her what to do,” Clark says in Faith's defence. “She is the one in charge here and she is doing a much better job than you ever could,” he says insultingly.
“Oh let me guess she is probably a much better screw as well.”
“Probably. I'll put it on my 'To Do' list and let you know afterwards.”
Buffy reaches for her engagement ring, yanks it off her finger and throws it at Clark who catches it deftly. “We are through!!!”
“Fine by me!!!”
Buffy then turns on her hells and stomps off. Faith is about to yell after her to stop when her hair is blown aside by a gust of wind. She turns to see Clark is gone. Oh hell. She better wake the gang up and get to the bottom of this. Before she can move though laughter fills the empty dining hall.
“Wow! That went better than I thought I would.”
Faith turns to find...what looks like Buffy but obviously ain't. The First. “You. What did you do?!” she demands to know.
The First/Buffy smirks. “Wouldn't you like to know but I will say that this it is not some spell you can just reverse and everything will be fine and dandy. Oh no. It is far more subtle than that. In fact it worked much faster than I thought it would. It just goes to show how deeply their pain runs.” The red kryptonite even worked on Kal-El much better than it thought too. After what happened in Paris even the First wasn't sure quite how it would work on Kal-El this time round but it turned out really good. The First/Buffy dusts its hands off. “Well now. It looks like the Last Son and the Slayer's entwined destiny has been broken. Victory will soon be mine Faithie.”
“We'll stop you,” Faith promises.
“You are welcome to try,” the First/Buffy dares before it vanishes.
“Well Becs?” Faith asks an English Wicca since no way was Red up to this.
Rebecca's brow knit together in concentration. “There is no spell I can sense.”
“Well duh!” the subject of Rebecca's scrutiny says. “I could have told you that.”
Faith rubs her forehead. “B,” she begins to says before she is cut off.
Buffy glares at Faith. “Give me one reason why I haven't hit you yet?”
“Because you are under the influence,” Faith replies pointing out what she thinks is the bleeding obvious.
Buffy snorts. “No I ain't. In fact maybe I should thank you for showing me what kind of person Clark really is.”
“Buffy you don't mean that,” Xander who is standing beside Faith tells her. Faith had caught him up on everything and from what he can see the First has done a real job on his friend. It is like she no longer cares that she just lost her baby and now her fiancé.
Buffy frowns. Doesn't she? That nagging voice in her head feeds her her next line. “It would never have worked out.”
Faith swears under her breath. That damn incorporeal personification of evil. What in the hell has it done to Buffy? Faith's attention is caught by Chloe entering the room. She and Xander head over and lead Chloe back outside. “Well?” Faith asks.
Chloe shakes her head. “He isn't answering his phone and no-one has seen him,” she answers in reference to Clark. As soon as Faith said what had happened Chloe had been on the phone hunting for Clark without any luck. She shakes her head. “He could be anywhere and if he doesn't want to be found, we won't find him,” she unhappily has to admit.
Xander looks back in the room at Buffy. “Ok lets not forget Clark exactly but lets just concentrate on the one person we have at hand. If we can find out what exactly the First has done to Buffy then it might make it easier to undo it on Clark when we find him.”
“Good luck there,” Faith says in less than total belief that they can accomplish it. She has this terrible nagging feeling that whatever has happened won't be easy to undo. After all even after telling Buffy about what the First said to her Buffy dismissed the possibility of her being influenced out of hand. It doesn't make sense. Buffy knows what the First is like but it is like she simply doesn't wish to fight whatever has been done to her and that is not the Buffy Faith knows. Faith looks at Buffy once more sitting there. What in the hell has the First done to her?
Buffy sits and wonders what Faith, Xander and Chloe are talking about. Probably her and Clark. Anger rises up inside her as she thinks of Clark but under it longing too and a wish he was here and that she was in his arms again. She mentally disregards that second bit. No this is for the better. He wasn't being much help with the whole Cythonna thing anyway. No she can do it better on her own. Yeah so the fact that they have split up is really for the better for both of them.
Buffy's hand moves to her stomach once more. Grief and anguish rise up and she pushes it back down as fast as it rises. She whispers quietly to herself. “I'm sorry Karen but this way is for the better.”
A dark chuckle echoes in the aether. Some days, the First thinks to itself, some days it is great to be evil.
Meanwhile at the Fortress of Solitude Clark is folding up the red and blue uniform he made. It had been a reflection of his Kryptonian heritage which he had come to appreciate a lot more during his year in solitude up here learning all about his people but now he no longer wished to wear it. He hadn't exactly worked out what had happened back in Scotland beyond it seems that he and Buffy are through. Great sorrow fills him yet there is a small voice that wonders if maybe it is for the better. Even if Buffy was to survive the next year his date with death is an immutable fact and is it right for him to subject anyone to a relationship in which he knows that one day he will have to die. Is it right for him to burden anyone with that?
Clark doesn't have the complete answer but he is edging towards no it is not right.
He looks up and around at the last piece of his destroyed homeworld and remembers his mission. The one his father sent him on and that he was to learn to connect to the peoples of Earth. Only now he knows he has a year before a threat greater than Zod, even, will rise. He has a time limit and maybe that is a good as reason as any not to bother trying to see if he can salvage anything with Buffy. That would only delay him, slow him down.
Yes. Alone is better. He finishes folding his uniform before he takes the two engagement rings he has left lying to the side. He looks at them longingly, remembering what it felt like to have that connection, to not feel as alone as he normally does for a short period, before he places them down on top of his uniform. He then takes them, places them inside a drawer, for lack of a better term, and slides the drawer shut. The crystals merge back into one making it look like there was never anything there at all.
Clark then sets about dressing in his new uniform. He had made it before the red and blue one and had thought about wearing it before but thought it was too dark. That it gave off the wrong impression. He was here to lead people not scare or intimidate them but now his mood was such that he could not see himself in the red and blue. At least not for awhile. No black suited his mood more.
He pulls on the black shirt with the representation of his family shield in grey which matches his black pants and boots. Finally he puts on the long black trench coat and stands in front of a reflective piece of crystal that stood in for a mirror. Yes. This is a perfect reflection of his mood yet he can still do what his father meant for him to do. With a nod of his head he turns and walks out into the central chamber of the Fortress. With one quick last look around he bends his knees slightly and shoots upward off to where he knows not yet. Only as long as it is far away from Buffy, Scotland and everyone else he knows. He just wants to be alone for awhile.
Another dark chuckle echoes in the aether. This was perfect. Kal-El was rejecting everyone just as the First had been suggesting in its whispers in his ear. All alone and vulnerable to its influence. Oh it isn't gong to happen over night. It will take months, years even but it is eternal and so is its patience. The First's victory was now only a matter of time.
Oscar Alvarez was a simple poor man. All he wanted every day was enough food to feed his family. He was also the last of a very, very few who still worshipped the ancient goddess Cythonna. She who had been all but forgotten by history but not his family. It had been passed down every generation that one day Cythonna would rise and for countless generations his family and the few followers that remained had waited patiently. Right now Oscar was about to pack up and head home. For the last few days he had stayed in Cythonna's last remaining temple as was tradition at this time of year. It was a ritual that demonstrated his continuing loyalty to the true Goddess but his stay had come to its end and he was eager to see his family once more.
Oscar picks up his pack. He slings it across his shoulder and turns to leave. As he does so a figure is silhouetted against the light from the entrance. “Hello?” he queries in Spanish.
“There was a time thousands would flock here,” the figure with a unmistakably feminine voice says. “Now there is only you Oscar Alvarez.”
“How do you know my name?” Oscar asks.
The figure steps closer and the features become visible. It is a woman, a tall powerful looking woman with long white hair that reaches the middle of the woman's back and pupil-less white eyes. Her skin is so pale as to be almost white itself and she wore a skin tight blue outfit of some kind. “Do you not recognise me?” the woman queries with interest.
Oscar's eyes shoot to the left where a faded portrait of the Goddess and then back at the woman in front of him. Instantly he throws himself to the ground in front of her. “Great Goddess,” he says humbly. “You have returned.”
“To a world that has changed much,” Cythonna adds. She turns her gaze to the man, a small insignificant bug compared to her, or he will be once her powers have fully regenerated. A process that will take approximately one orbit of this world around its star. “Tell me how many are left that still believe in me?” she asks Oscar.
He hesitates unsure what he should say.
“That few,” Cythonna laments looking into the man's mind.
“Much time has passed,” Oscar attempts to explain. “Few are left that have not been converted to the new religions.”
“Then we have much work to do,” Cythonna announces. “Come. Stand.” Oscar does so and as he does so Cythonna's alters her appearance so she resembles a human being although her hair remains white. Cythonna looks at herself. Urgh how awful this is but it is necessary for now. If her ancient enemies still live and hear of her return she is in no position yet to combat them.
“Now,” she commands. “You will take me to the few followers that remain. Then I must reacquaint myself with this world. You shall assist me.”
“Of course great goddess,” Oscar replies instantly in obedience.
With that Cythonna turns to depart her ancient temple with Oscar following her. She steps outside into the sunlight. It has been so long since she last felt the sun upon her she takes a moment to actually savour it. She opens her eyes and looks down on the surrounding jungle. Far too green. She much prefers icy white. Well soon enough she will have the power to reshape this world to her suiting. Soon enough even her ancient enemies, the other gods of this world, will know her wrath. Soon enough the world will once more tremble at the mere mention of her name. Soon enough Cythonna will once again rule and those who do not submit to her greatness will be destroyed. A smile comes to her imitation human face. Oh yes. Soon enough the time of Cythonna will come again and this time no-one be they a god, demon or mortal will stop her.
The End of Part 3.
To be continued in Part 4.
Author's Note: I decided that I would call this the end of part 3 of my story and I would end it with Clark and Buffy separated and Cythonna taking her first steps back into the world. I am going to save up the couple's reconciliation and the showdown with Cythonna for part 4. I'll add that the new look Clark picked out for himself is in fact the one they have him wearing in Season 9 of Smallville. I wanted him in black to reflect his mood and the rather downbeat tone of the end of this part of my story. Thank you to all those who wrote reviews. I hope to have part 4 up soon.