Chapter One: Alone We Stand
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters I use in this story.
Author's Note: Two years ago I started writing this story and I'm still here writing it. Taken on a life of its own it has. Anyway here we are back again to my continuing saga of Clark and Buffy where Cythonna will rise and we will find out who will win along with the answer to many other questions. i.e. Will the First succeed in turning Clark to the darkside?(He is destined to become Superman so take a wild guess at the answer.)
Will I write a shirtless Oliver scene just because Smallville loves them so?(Perhaps. I'm not ruling it out. Also it is a hint about seeing the JL again in this part.)
Will I actually have an arc with Lex in it?(Answer to this one is yes because Lex is a great villain and he so deserves some 'air-time' to coin a phrase.)
Can Buffy escape her prophesied death and will Clark and Buffy have a happy ever after?(You really don't expect me to answer this here and ruin the ending do you?)
I will add here my thanks to all those who have written reviews up to this point and stuck with me these last 2 years. I hope you will enjoy part 4 of my tale.
Gaza City, an extremely densely populated piece of land full of varying buildings, many built somewhat poorly, many showing signs of damage caused by the conflicts that plague this part of the world. A figure moves across the rooftops, avoiding the maze of narrow streets and pathways below. Despite being dressed in green leather no-one sees him as he moves closer and closer to his target.
He had been searching for this target for months. It had been dangerous as his target had seemingly wished to be in the worse places this world has to offer. War Zones, places hit by natural disasters. Wherever people were suffering the target would show up and he would go to try and find him but each and every time he thought he had found his target the target was gone upon his arrival but not this time. This time he had him.
He pulls out his crossbow and uses shoots a line across a gap too big for him to leap. He swings over and lands on a balcony. He pushes the window open and can see a figure lying on a bed. His heart rate increases. Finally!
“Hello Oliver,” the figure suddenly says.
The hero known as the Green Arrow frowns slightly before he pulls his hood down and takes his shades off. The acquirements that protect his identity of Oliver Queen. “Hello Clark,” he says back.
Clark makes a sort of grunt as he swings his legs round and comes to sit upright. “So finally caught up with me,” he comments with complete knowledge that Oliver has been chasing him for months.
“You are not an easy man to find,” Oliver remarks.
Clark chuckles a little darkly. “Only as easy as I wish to be. You know I heard you coming from a mile away. I let you find me.”
Oliver stares at the rather bedraggled figure and that is not a term he usually associates with Clark but with his slightly dirty, tatty clothes, long unkempt hair and a full thick beard Oliver can't think of a better term. “Why?”
Clark's brow knits together. “Why what?”
“Why did you let me find you if you knew I was coming?”
“Because I'm tired of you and your little band of merry men hunting me all over the world,” he says with notable annoyance at the fact that everywhere he has gone these last few months Oliver or Bart or Victor or AC or Dinah turn up searching for him.
“And women,” Oliver corrects. “We are an equal opportunity organisation.”
“Clark it is time to stop running,” Oliver tells him meaning it is time for Clark to stop running away from his problems.
Clark laughs. “Running! Whose running? I am simply travelling.”
“Chloe told me. Told me what happened. About what you lost,” Oliver says with sympathy.
Clark fixes Oliver with a deathly gaze that would have made most people urinate themselves. “Time you leave,” he states in no uncertain terms.
“Not without you.”
Clark gets to his feet so he can use his full height. “Oliver if you are here to give me the 'You shouldn't be alone' speech do yourself a favour; spare me.”
“You've been alone Clark. For seven months,” Oliver feels the need to point out just how much time has passed since Clark vanished.
“I don't recall asking for or needing anyone's permission to have time to myself Oliver.”
“Seven months alone Clark,” Oliver repeats. “How is that working out for you by the way? Any closer to finding whatever it is you have been looking for through all those countries we chased after you through? Or are you finally ready to admit that even you, for all your abilities, need help?”
It is true that it has been that long since Clark left the Fortress. At first he continued his original plan of simply travelling, learning about the world's peoples and its cultures but the pain wouldn't leave him. The pain of what he has lost. His daughter. Buffy...so he set out on a new mission. He wanted to find out how other people cope with loss like that so maybe he could find the answer on how to come to terms with it because for some reason he still can't. It is like there is something holding him back, something refusing to allow him to grieve fully and move on so he travelled to where people suffered the most. Into War Zones, in the aftermath of natural disasters and he watched. Watched the people and observed how they rebuilt even after some of them had lost everything. Despite all this though he was no closer than he was when he started. Before his mind can make the leap to maybe he should listen to Oliver a little voice in his head tells him what it thinks he should say. “I need to do this by myself.” Yeah he is better off standing alone despite the single unwarranted thought that he wishes Buffy was here. Clark briefly wonders how she is before his attention is caught by Oliver speaking.
“Well then we have a problem don't we Clark because you see I promised your mother I would bring you back and while I may not be quite a paragon of virtue on your level I will not break my word. You are coming back with me Clark whether you want to or not.”
Clark laughs with dark amusement at the thought of any mere human trying to make him do anything. He moves so he is right in Oliver's face. “Take your best shot,” he dares Oliver.
Oliver is many thing but ill-prepared is not one of them. He promised Clark's mother, he had promised Chloe, that he would bring Clark back willingly or not so that they could help him and in case of not he brought a piece of kryptonite. Oliver is just about to get it when he spots something odd about the door behind Clark. It is turning to...ice!?
Meanwhile back at Slayer HQ Faith is watching Buffy training with a few of the newbies although it is hardly fair to call them newbies anymore. They have all been slayers for approaching 2 years now. Well she can call them the ones with the least experience. While Faith has remained in overall charge Buffy has been throwing herself into every assignment she can. Ever since Clark left she has been doing the really horrible, dark stuff that even Faith hates doing but comes as part of being a slayer. As Faith said to Clark once sometimes doing this job involves doing some really nasty shit. Fighting and killing things without remorse or pity because the things they are fighting are simply that debauched and evil that the only solution is to slaughter them and that is what Buffy has been volunteering herself to do. Well when she is not totally obsessing over Cythonna that is.
Buffy requested to be put in charge of the task force that is hunting for Cythonna and for the sake of peace Faith had agreed to the request and for the seven months since Clark and Buffy broke up and Clark vanished it has been Buffy's obsession to find the Goddess and for seven long months they have not been able to find a solid lead which somehow only makes Buffy more obsessed and determined to find Cythonna and when they fail to find her that is generally when Buffy volunteers to take one of those dark jobs. She retreats into the emotionless killer that lies within all slayers. Into the spirit of the original slayer. She never lets out her true emotions anymore. Even Faith can see how unhealthy that is.
The worse thing is that time is running out though as it seems events are proceeding just as they were foretold to. There are stirrings in the underworld just like the future Dawn told Buffy there would be. Cythonna it seems has begun gathering those who are willing to follow her into a coherent movement, into an army essentially, and those that don't...well recently they have found more and more demon hideouts frozen solid in blocks of ice and the demons within frozen and then shattered into thousands of pieces. There aren't many types of demons that can survive that kind of damage so it is a highly effective way of killing them.
Buffy knocks the last girl she is sparring with on her ass and signals that that is it for today. “Ok not bad but there is still room for improvement.” She address the whole group “All of you back here first thing tomorrow,” she orders which is met by a collective groan as they slowly march out.
“A little hard on them weren't ya,” Faith comments and B was. She was all business now and no fun. Even her clothes had come to reflect it. Out had gone anything that might be construed as frivolous which the old Buffy would have considered an absolute must. No her clothes were dull and merely practical. Even her hair was kept in an almost permanent ponytail so it never got in her face.
Buffy moves beside Faith and picks up her bottle of water. “In your opinion,” she responds somewhat dismissively before she takes a sip of water.
“How long are you going to keep this up B?”
“Keep what up?”
“This pretence that everything is alright.”
“Everything is alright.”
“Ah. So it is alright that you lost your baby and your fiancé.”
For an instant Buffy's face darkens but it is only for an instant before she shrugs her shoulders and says “Things happen. You know that. Things happen and we just have to learn to live with them and I have. I mean frankly lets face it I'm better off without him.”
Faith shakes her head. For seven damn months they have been trying to reach Buffy through whatever the First has done to her. Seven months and they don't seem any closer to solving the conundrum. “B one day I hope you realise that you are being played and for what it is worth to you I hope that that day comes before it is too late.” With that Faith leaves.
Buffy stares at the door for a few minutes. What does Faith know anyway. Yes losing her baby hurt but so did having to send Angel to hell,losing her mom, watching Spike die and a hundred other things she would rather not have endured but she is still here. Her pain is not important right now. Saving the world is and that needs her total attention at the moment.
“Tick Tock. Tick Tock.”
Buffy frowns and turns to find a figure that looks like Clark holding a ridiculously oversized clock. This clock varies however as at the 12 o'clock position is the word 'Death' meaning her own. “Don't you have better things to do.”
The First/Kal smirks. “Nope can't think of anything right now. Besides don't you work best under pressure. I think a gentle reminder that your time grows short would be a good motivator.”
“Is that thing still valid?” she has to ask. “After all aren't I suppose to die saving Clark and since he and I are no more that doesn't seem to apply any longer.”
The First/Kal laughs. “Oh come now. You can fool others and even yourself for awhile but we both know that when you see Clark about to be struck down that you will throw yourself in front of him regardless of what has transpired between the two of you. We both know that you would do it for anyone no matter how much they pissed you off. I mean that is what a hero does. They selflessly lay down their lives for others.”
Buffy glares at her frequent tormentor for the past seven months. It is correct of course. If she has to she will sacrifice her life but she still has time. If she can find Cythonna before the so-called prophesied time than she can end this before some great battle where she dies and Chloe dies and who knows how many others die and she can make sure Willow doesn't go off the deep end and prevent that future she saw from ever transpiring. “I've got things to do,” she says dismissing her tormentor and turning to leave.
“Oh yes of course. I forgot that little Miss Ahab has to hunt her whale,” the First/Kal wryly remarks.
Buffy stops, her brow knitting together in a frown. “This isn't about revenge.”
“But it is an obsession. Mr Melville's little tale is as much about obsession as it is revenge.” The First/Kal moves next to her and whispers in her ear. “And tell me Buffy how does it end? Hmm. What does Ahab's obsession lead to? I'll tell you. It leads to him losing his ship, his crew, his own life.”
Buffy turns her head to look at the First. “You trying to caution me off my path?” she queries with some confusion because that is what it sounds like.
The First/Kal shakes its head. “Nope. Not at all because Ahab's obsession does allow him to find the white whale whereas a man with less determination would never have done so.”
“So if I am obsessed I can find Cythonna?”
The First/Kal smirks. “Never said that either.”
Buffy growls. It is confusing her, mixing her up. “I hate you!”
The First/Kal smiles. “Good. Big fan of hate personally. Embrace your hate Buffy. Only with it can you find the power to win.”
Buffy rolls her eyes. “That's off Star Wars.”
“No it ain't,” the First/Kal protests.
“Oh it may not be it word for word but I've seen the movies enough times to know that is the general flow of when they are trying to turn Luke. Frankly if that is the best you can come up with I would say you're losing your touch.”
The First/Kal snorts in a huff. “Well just remember this slayer. Your time draws short and the place you vacated in the hereafter awaits your return. The only question is will you end up in the Light or in the Darkness with me.”
“What? No offer to spare my life in exchange for joining you or something?” Buffy asks almost insulted.
“Why waste an offer like that on someone who isn't all that important,” the First/Kal says trying to dismiss Buffy's importance. The First morphs into Buffy. “Wow. That like totally crushed my ego,” it mocks in an over-the-top air-headed impression of Buffy.
Buffy has had enough of this for today. She has more important things to do. She turns her back to the First and marches out of the training room. She needs to get back to her search for Cythonna. Last rumour they had heard was that she was somewhere in the Middle East and despite how many of her fellow slayers there are now Buffy can't help but feel the necessity that for this battle she must stand alone. That is fine by her. It wouldn't be the first time. On her way a brief thought enters her head no matter how much she doesn't want it to. That thought being she can't help but wonder how Clark is.
The Goddess Cythonna wanders through the alleys and walkways of the place now called Gaza City in the guise of a human. Her true form could be quite overwhelming for mortals and for the moment she still wished not to draw unnecessary attention to herself. Especially the attention of her ancient enemies that she knows are still around somewhere. As she looks around she thinks she may have wandered this part of the Earth before back in her prime countless centuries ago.
Seven months ago by the current human calendar she awoke from her long slumber. She had been forced into it by her defeat in a war against this world's native gods. Particularly the ones who referred to themselves as the Olympians. They almost killed her she must admit. Her slumber allowed her to slowly heal over the course of time. Once fully restored she would have her revenge and those bunch of arrogant, self-indulgent, indolent gods would fall by her hand.
Now she has awakened her powers had been regenerating. In 5 more months she would be fully restored and ready to make her presence known to the world. Ready to wage war on the Olympians and all others who opposed her. If need be she would stand alone against them but that is not her desire. That is why she had spent the time and effort gathering followers amongst the hidden classes of this world. The disenfranchised humans of the world who had been forgotten. The cast-offs. What humans called demons. Those that agreed to follow her would be rewarded. Those that refused she destroyed so as to keep her return secret for as long as she wishes it to remain so.
Cythonna would need an army upon the appointed day. Humans had advanced much and adopted many new religions since she was last awake, some fanatically so, and that would mean that millions would never bow down to her. They would fight to the death. So be it. The survivors of that war to come would bow down to her. They would have no choice if they wished to continue to live.
It is recruiting followers that brings her to this place. Rumours had reached her of a being, one of seemingly almost god-like power. She had first heard of this being from a demon who served the entity that refers to itself as the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. It had been part of an army that had been sent to kill a vampire that had defied the Wolf, Ram and Hart and it told her of what appeared like a man that flew and could shoot fire from its eyes and possessed possibly limitless strength and speed.
Cythonna needed to find this being. If it was as powerful as it seemed to be then she would much prefer it to be on her side than her having to fight it.
Finding it had proved difficult. She heard stories, rumours, but whenever she got there there was no sign but this time is different. It is here. She can feel it. Feel its immense power. Cythonna moves swiftly into a building and up some stairs. She comes to a locked door. She places her hand on it and using a fraction of her power turns the door to ice. It then simply shatters. She steps inside to find what is obviously simply a mortal dressed in some kind of green outfit and in black the being she is no doubt searching for.
The man in black turns round and as he does so Cythonna notices a symbol on his chest. A Kryptonian symbol. A symbol from a race of beings she utterly despised with every fibre of her being as they were responsible for destroying her planet and her own creations, her own children. In an instant her human guise falls away and she takes her true form. “Who are you that wears that mark?!” she demands to know.
The man in black takes a few seconds to appraise her appearance which she knows must be overwhelming to most before he does something Cythonna least expected. He laughs. He actually dares to laugh at her. She is outraged. “You dare mock me?!”
“Oh no I'm not mocking you Cythonna,” the man in black responds.
Cythonna is caught slightly off guard. “You know who am I?”
“I've heard the stories and seen your image,” he explains.
“Who are you?” she repeats and that alone is an insult to her. A Goddess should never have to repeat themselves.
“I am Kal-El...of Krypton.”