There's No Place Like Home
Giles the chair limped up to Faith and she patted him reassuringly, promising that they’d get him back to Metropolis and fixed as soon as they’d finished with the evil witch chick. She offered to carry him back to Lex’s where they would make plans for their ‘final battle’ but he refused, preferring instead to hobble.
Clark’s memory was returning little by little. The shock of being released so suddenly had temporarily wiped the last few months from his mind. Tara was helping him.
“When did Lana give you the bracelet?”
Clark screwed up his face in concentration. “The last thing I remember clearly is Lana kissing me the day she was released from hospital after the tornado. We made plans to meet up at the Talon the next day to assess the damage. I was going to ask her to go steady with me.”
Tara smiled indulgently at Clark’s blushing face. Suddenly she was really angry at Lana. Sure, Clark might be some kind of superhero and able to defend himself against physical threats but he had no defence against emotional or magical attacks. The Witch glanced over at Lois and knew that she was thinking the same thing.
“And then?” Tara asked Clark gently.
“Then…” he trailed off. “Everything after that is like a dream. Chloe was away in the city and Lana never wanted to hang out with Pete. It was always just me and her. I still did my chores on the farm but apart from that…” Clark paused again. “My parents! I’ve barely spoken to them all summer. I have to go.” He made to leave only to find that Giles the chair was holding him back.
“You can’t go yet,” said Faith. “We need you for the final phase. We need you to pretend like nothing’s changed. As far as Lana is concerned, you’re still her willing slave.”
Faith turned and started heading across a field to Casa de Lex. Everyone else trailed behind.
“I wonder how he was going to get through school. It starts again next week,” whispered Chloe to Lex.
“I think we were planning to run away together,” replied Clark from right behind her.
Chloe screamed. “Clark! Don’t do that!”
Clark muttered an apology and moved away. He felt like he just couldn’t do anything right. How could he have been so stupid? This was even worse than the guilt he felt about the meteor shower. He was only a baby when he caused that but now he should be taking more responsibility for his actions.
“It’s not your fault.” Clark turned to find Lois right beside him. He shook his head. “None of it is your fault,” she repeated. “And I’m going to keep telling you that and showing you that until you get it into your thick farmboy skull.” She smiled.
Clark smiled tentatively back, for the first time noticing that Chloe’s cousin was really very pretty.
“The Slayer was here the whole time!” ranted Lana in the closed coffee shop. “She was lying mostly dead in the hospital and I could have killed her then!”
“She was dead,” replied Malaskor from the shadows of his favourite booth. He was sipping a latte that Lana had made him for him, a human pleasure that he liked to indulge in.
Lana turned to glare at him. He looked more and more like Ming the Merciless from the old Flash Gordon TV show she’d seen bits of with Pete. His goatee shone as if he’d spent hours oiling and combing it and his robes were several different textures of black.
“If she was dead, what do you need me for? It was my scarecrow that killed her!”
Malaskor nodded—Lana had started calling him Ming in her head, hoping that he couldn’t read her thoughts—and sighed. “You didn’t even intend to kill the Slayer. It was that pretty little journalist you were after. Anyway, she’s not the one I want dead.”
“You told me to kill the Slayer! Faith is the Slayer!” Lana was pacing up and down in frustration by now.
Malaskor put his oversized mug of coffee down on the table and steepled his fingers, resting his elbows on his knees and leaning forward so that the errant witch could see his face. “Faith,” he began slowly, emphasising the word as if Lana were a child who had difficulty understanding, “is a slayer. She is not THE Slayer.”
Lana stopped pacing right in front of the being she served. “Fine. Who is the Slayer and where do I find her?”
Malaskor beckoned her closer and whispered in her ear. Lana leaned back. “What kind of name is Buffy?”
Back at the mansion, the planning was in full swing. That is to say, the arguing was in full swing. Clark wanted to run to the Talon and stop Lana right then and there. Not that he could ever hit a girl himself; that would be left to Faith and Amanda with Tara for magical back up. Lois, Chloe and Lex wanted more caution until they knew just how much power Lana had. Faith was torn between her own instinct toward action and the memory of how often that had gotten her into trouble.
“It’s Buffy.” Wesley spoke so quietly that only Faith, sitting next to him on the sofa had heard.
“What?” she asked.
“He’s after Buffy,” repeated the Watcher.
Lois shushed everyone. “Why Buffy?”
“Think about it,” said Wes, settling into lecture mode. “Faith and Amanda have been here, within easy reach. Faith was seriously injured but turned out to be collateral damage. Amanda is new to her powers, she’s vulnerable, but Lana hasn’t come anywhere near her.”
“Killing Amanda would only call a new Slayer,” continued Faith with an apologetic smile toward her protégé, who seemed a little uncomfortable with this discussion of her death. “I’ve been to the dark side, maybe Malaskor thinks I can be enticed back. Buffy is…” she trailed off, searching for words. “Buffy is something else.”
Wesley looked crestfallen. He interpreted Faith’s statement as a sign of her continuing infatuation with the older Slayer.
“Buffy is the longest lived Slayer in recorded history,” added Tara. “There’d be some kudos in the demon world for killing her.”
“But B’s in SunnyD,” said Lois, falling easily into Faith’s storytelling lingo. “Lana’s here.”
Faith pulled out the Marauder’s map. “Not for much longer.” She pointed at the dot labelled Lana Lang, it was out of the Talon and moving down the street. “She’s probably got the amulet with her.”
There was a whooshing sound and then another one a second or so later. Lois looked around to see Clark standing next to her, exactly where he was before but now his hands were full of what looked like spark plugs.
“What’s that?” asked Amanda.
“The spark plugs to every car Lana has access too: her mini, Nell’s truck and my truck.”
Lois hugged him. “Good thinking Clark!” He grinned. Maybe he could make up for his stupidity after all.
“Dammit!” Lana slammed her hand against the steering wheel. Neither her car, nor Clark’s truck—which he had left outside the Talon—would start. She’d planned to stop by Lex’s to pick up Clark before heading out to California but it looked liked they’d have to take the bus. She picked up her cell phone.
“I’ll get it!” Chloe hurried to answer the phone ringing on her boyfriend’s desk. “Casa de Lex, this is Chloe….Oh. Hi LANA,” she overemphasised the name and soon had everyone listening. “Sure, Clark’s here. I’ll just get him.” Chloe handed the phone to a reluctant Clark.
“Hi, uh, honey,” Clark wasn’t sure what to say. What had he been like these past few months, trapped under Lana’s spell? “Sure, I can meet you there. I’ll get someone to drive me….Love you too,” the final words seemed to stick in his throat. He hung up.
Everyone began talking at once. Faith put two fingers into her mouth and let out an ear splitting whistle. “Let Wes talk.” Only Lois noticed the fact that Faith had called him Wes instead of Watcherman, and the look that Faith had given him as she used his name.
“We have two choices,” began Wesley, addressing the group. “We can go in strong, surprising Lana at the…”
“Bus station,” filled in Clark.
“In that case I would suggest using Clark as a distraction while Faith and Amanda attack physically and Tara attacks magically. I can assist with magics. Subduing Lana is less important than destroying the amulet. Once that is gone, she will be helpless, if she survives at all.” Clark winced at that but nodded firmly.
“The other option?” asked Amanda, who didn’t seem too keen on going into battle.
“We let Lana go and Clark goes with her. We alert Giles,” there was confusion on some faces, the only Giles they knew was the chair so Wes clarified, “the person, not the chair, to the situation and let Buffy and Willow deal with it, with Clark for back up.”
“No,” said both Tara and Faith. They glanced at each other and smiled.
Tara nodded to Faith that she should explain first. “This is a Kansas problem,” began the dark Slayer, “and Kansas is my territory. Not Buffy’s. She’s got enough to deal with on the Hellmouth.”
“I agree,” added Tara, her voice quiet but strong. “I can deal with Lana’s power as well as Willow could.”
Wesley nodded. “Well then, we’d best be going.”
“Clark!” Lana ran up to him and threw her arms around him. He shuddered inwardly but returned the hug. When they pulled away, Lana ran her hands down his arms to check it the bracelet was still there. It was. When Clark realised what she was doing he said a silent ‘thank you’ to Tara who had cleansed the spell from it.
In the background, Lex’s MG with Lex and Chloe in it roared out of the car park. Clark had come with them while the others had borrowed Chloe’s car and arrived on the other side of the building, out of Lana’s sight.
“Where are we going?” Clark asked as Lana pulled him over to a bench to sit down. She frowned, he wasn’t supposed to be so curious, and grabbed his hand, pushing the bracelet into his skin. “Not that it matters,” added Clark, realising that he’d have to become a better liar if this was to work. “As long as we’re together.”
Lana smiled. “You know how we talked about running away together?” Clark nodded as eagerly as he could. “Well, we’re going to California. We have to make a short stop in a small town but then we’re going to LA!”
Clark hugged her hard so that she wouldn’t see the disgust on his face and the betrayal in his eyes.
Behind the temporary building that had been erected for the bus station after the tornado, Faith was comforting a frightened Amanda. “She’s no match for you physically and Tara will take care of the magic, won’t you Tare?” Tara nodded and laid a reassuring hand on Amanda’s shoulder. “Your first battle will be in daylight and with backup. Mine was solo in a graveyard at night. All you have to do is grab the amulet if you see it and smash it. You’ll do fine.” Faith paused to assess her protégé. “Ready?” Amanda summoned up her courage and nodded firmly. “Let’s rock and ride.”
“Clark?” asked Lana in a muffled voice. He was still hugging her tightly, her face buried in his chest. He saw Tara peeking out from around the side of the building and winked at her.
“I just love you so much Lana,” he acted. “And we’re going to be together forever.” The only way he could stop himself from pushing her away in disgust was by pretending that it was another brunette with the initials LL that he held.
“I love you to Clark,” replied Lana. “But I need to breathe.” Clark relaxed his hold a little and a moment later, all hell broke loose.
Tara stepped out into the open and began chanting a spell to drain Lana’s power. Clark held onto her for as long as he could but she quickly pushed him away with her magic. That was when Faith struck. Leaping down from the roof, she landed next to Lana, hitting her with a low roundhouse kick. The witch hit the ground but had enough time to send a blast of power at Tara, knocking her off her feet and into Wesley, who was standing nearby.
Lana levered herself back up only to find herself surrounded. Faith was behind her and Amanda in front. She turned to Clark. “Help me,” she demanded. Clark just shook his head. This wasn’t his fight anymore. Closing her eyes, Lana summoned other help.
The scarecrow appeared behind Faith but she sensed it and turned. “Not this time,” she whispered as she prepared to fight.
The distraction left Amanda alone with Lana. The young Slayer got a few good punches in before Lana could erect a magical shield. Then suddenly Lana was fighting on two fronts again. Tara was back on her feet, casting from behind a barrier held in place by Wesley.
Faith was being matched by the scarecrow blow for blow. “Yo, Slugger!” She looked up. Lois was sitting on the roof above them smoking a cigar and writing furiously in her notebook. She tossed something shiny and silver down to Faith. It was her trusty zippo lighter. Faith grinned at the scarecrow. “If you only had a brain,” she joked before flicking open the lighter and setting him on fire. “Isn’t it funny,” she remarked to Lois, as she tossed the lighter back up to her, “how people on fire always run around?”
And that’s what the scarecrow was doing. He was running madly around trying desperately to get away from the fire. Amanda stepped back as the flaming ball of straw came towards her. It ran straight into the Lana’s already weakened shields, destroying them completely.
Lana fell to the ground, the pewter amulet with its emerald in the centre flying out of her pocket. Amanda picked it up off the ground and held it triumphantly above her head, preparing to smash it.
“Wait,” said Lana faintly.
Amanda looked around in confusion. Everyone was frozen in place. Then she looked up. On the roof of the temporary bus station stood the donut man and in his hand was a struggling Lois. Amanda turned to Faith, “What do I do?” she mouthed.
Faith signalled for patience. Then Amanda noticed that Clark was gone.
Up on the roof, Clark was grappling, unseen with his gigantic adversary. The donut man was twisting, trying to see what was climbing up its back but its flexibility was seriously limited. Clark peeped over the donut man’s shoulder and caught Lois’s eye. Her eyebrows shot up but she stayed silent. “Trust me,” he mouthed to her.
Lois smiled and nodded a reply.
Then Clark flew into action. Leaping from the shoulder, he rammed both his fists into the donut man’s eyes, blinding him. The donut man began swinging wildly, letting go of Lois in the process. She began to fall but Clark was there right beside her. He gathered her up in his arms and braced for impact.
Their landing was much softer than he anticipated. Giles the Chair was there to catch them. After opening her eyes and finding herself alive, Lois kissed Clark passionately. Faith made a face at them. Everyone else smiled.
Faith gave Amanda the go ahead signal and she flung the amulet to the ground, destroying it completely. Lana, still prostrate, directed one last plea for help to the shadows before fading out of existence.
“Is it over?” asked Chloe. She and Lex had just driven back up.
“Oh yes,” replied a voice from the shadows. “It’s over.”
“Is that…?” began Amanda.
“Malaskor,” finished Wesley.
“Doesn’t he look like Ming the Merciless?” commented Tara.
“I was thinking Profion from Dungeons and Dragons,” put in Lois, coming up for air.
“Disaffected member of generation X,” added Chloe, noting the goatee.
“Saruman?” asked Lex, looking for takers to agree.
Amanda shrugged. “He’s definitely gone for the Vader robes.”
Faith laughed. “Thanks for the help earlier,” she said. “Being dead isn’t really my thing.” And with that, Malaskor, powerful lower being was dismissed from this dimension, doomed to waiting in the ethers tragic until he was once again summoned.
Everyone waved as Amanda drove off in Giles’s car. It was a long drive back to Sunnydale but the young Slayer had promised that she could handle it. After a long night of thought, Tara had decided to stay in Kansas. Faith had a researcher and a Watcher—Wes and Faith had had a long night too—all she needed was a Witch for her Scooby Gang to be complete. Metropolis U had courses that interested her and there was plenty of room for an another girl at the dorm.
They found Lois’s car outside town, right where they’d left it. Lex dropped them off there, promising to bring Chloe and Clark to visit almost every weekend. Clark and Lois parted reluctantly, promising to email each other often.
Faith had finished typing her paper entitled, “Local Legends: the Witches of Smallville”, that morning and she was prepared with explanations for her lecturers and her parole officer.
Tara was driving, Lois was asleep in the front seat, Giles was lying comfortably in the trunk and Wes had his arm around his Slayer. “There’s no place like home,” whispered Faith to herself as the skyscrapers of Metropolis came into view.