THE COLOR OF FIRE
BY MYOWNSPECIALSELF

Characters: Nell, Lana

Category: Gen fanfic

Warnings: none (but see "Spoilers" below).

Rating: PG

Spoilers: References the scenes where the meteor shower strikes Smallville and the demise of Lana's parents.

Summary: She doesn't have the nightmare as often as she used to.

Date: January 2003

Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment only. It is not for profit. Smallville is the property of Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Tollin-Robbins Productions, and Warner Bros. Television, and based upon characters originally created by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Notes: Inspired by Wookie's "The Path She Takes."

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Wookie for showing me a Nell who is real. Special thanks to my betas Philtre and GothPhyle for smoothing out and polishing the rough spots.

Feeback always welcome! Send to [email protected]

**********



It always unfolds the same way. As if it were a movie she's seen too many times. The same plot, the same shots, the same details. And, of course, the same actors.

It opens with a downtown middle-America setting that Hollywood might have built: a clean, tidy Main Street lined with picturesque, small-town storefronts. It's mid-afternoon on a Saturday. This street and these sidewalks are busy with people who have errands to run.

There's a feeling of celebration in the air. The local high-school football team just scored a victory the night before. A small, noisy cavalcade of cars, adorned with jubilant cheerleaders and football heroes, makes its way through the town.

In the doorway of one of the charming storefronts -- a flower shop -- stands a young woman with auburn hair. In her arms she carries her three-year-old niece. The little girl is dressed in a pink fairy-princess costume. She waves a magic wand happily at everyone who passes by, and her costume wings bob when she wriggles.

As if on cue, another young woman gets out of a shiny gray car that has just pulled up across the street. She raises a hand and calls out to the little girl and the girl's aunt.

"Mommy!" the little girl replies, right on cue. She gestures with the magic wand. She spots her father standing a few feet away from the young woman. "Daddy!"

The man smiles and lifts a hand. The little girl returns his salute with her wand as her aunt lets her down onto the ground. The man turns and searches for something in the open trunk of the car.

She sees it all again now: how everyone on the street suddenly looks up at a cloudless blue sky and notices the approach of something glowing red amidst plumes of smoke. They turn to one another in an almost-theatrical display of bewilderment.

"What on God's earth?" The question barely forms on the lips of the auburn-haired young woman.

There's a whooshing rush of air and heat and then the answer explodes right before their eyes.

Flashes of bright orange-white precede a deafening boom, and the earth shudders in protest. The impact rocks the street so hard that the woman and the little girl fall backwards on the sidewalk, losing their grip on each other's hand.

A second later, the gray car detonates. It rises into the air, and the man and his wife disappear in a mass of yellow flames and semi-molten rock. By the time the car lands, upside down, the young woman and the little girl are screaming as they scramble backwards.

More flames burst around them, and the two cower on the sidewalk, reaching for each other while panic-stricken townsfolk run in all directions.

There are other explosions that drown out the bedlam. A small truck swerves to avoid a crater in the middle of the street and crashes into a lamp-post. A few doors down, a shop window explodes and half the establishment seems to fly out the gaping hole.

A young man stumbles out into the street, dark red running down the side of his head. He steps into a small crater. He loses his balance and thuds to the ground.

Dust and green-glowing gravel shoot up as another bit of meteor strikes nearby. Out of nowhere, a large man charges at them. It's a clerk who works at the post office, which is just on the next block.

"Get inside!" he roars. "Head for the back alley or the cellar!"

In a split second he has yanked them to their feet and is shoving them toward the open door of the flower shop. "Jesus! We're at war!" he screams, wide-eyed, as he backs out into the street.

As if confirming his guess, a painfully loud burst of yellow-green explodes right next to him, and the impact sends him hurtling through the air like a rag doll. He slams against the side of a parked truck.

The shock waves hurl the woman and the girl onto the floor of the flower shop, which is littered with broken glass. If they've cut themselves, they don't even notice as they get up. They whimper and hug each other and wait for the next blast.

Outside, someone continues to scream and dark gray smoke drifts by. A sign on the front of a building reads FORDMAN'S. That sign is now blazing. Across the street from the store, a fallen power line snakes blindly on the ground as it sporadically sprays white-yellow sparks.

The meteors are no longer falling now, and the ground has stopped trembling. The little girl is sobbing uncontrollably. The young woman picks her up and steps to the doorway of the shop.

Outside, a few people wander in a moaning daze. Others are lying on the ground, including the postal clerk, whose head is twisted at a crazy angle.

The little girl wails. "Mommy! Daddy!" She twists frantically in her aunt's arms to look up and down the street. Neither of them really hears the click of a camera that is almost in the little girl's face, and only the young woman seems to almost notice the man who walks away with that camera.

Her eyes alight on the cadaver, really only half a cadaver, of the gray car. She lets out a high-pitched keen. Her family is gone. Incinerated.

Less than half a minute later, a siren gets louder as it comes closer, and drowns out the grief-stricken sobs. Then there's another siren. And another.

There's smoke. Acrid black clouds billow past the flower shop, and the smell of burning -- and of something even worse -- is everywhere.

The young woman and the little girl barely hear the sirens. They can't stop crying as they clutch each other and rock back and forth.

This is always what happens in the film loop that plays in her mind. The rocking. But this time, the movie takes a different turn. The two figures cling to each other, sobbing hysterically, as always. But now they rock back and forth harder. Harder. And harder--

**********

"--Wake up." A hand shook her shoulder, making her head bob wildly.

Her eyes flew open. She drew the back of her hand against them and it came away damp. She looked up and saw, against pale skin, the green crystalline rock on the gold chain. She shuddered and raised her eyes higher to meet the concerned gaze.

"You were having the nightmare again."

She tried to say something, but her voice wasn't there. She nodded dumbly instead.

"I'll be right back. I'm going make you some tea."

As the slight figure left the room, she noticed the color of the terry-cloth robe the girl was wearing. Pink.

The same color as the fairy costume of a three-year-old girl who, ten years ago, watched her parents die the day fire rained down from the Kansas sky. To her it was a color that meant death.

She lay there, holding back the tears that threatened to rise as she tried to remember the smiles of the young married couple. That day, after dropping off Lana, they waved good-bye excitedly and got in their car drive to the next town for lunch and a movie. She remembered how happy, how grateful they were for some time to themselves.

She suddenly felt panic when she realized that, in her mind's eye, the smiles had started to dim. She fought the urge to get out of bed, to open her desk and pull out the photograph that showed them, forever young and happily married, as she desperately wanted to remember them.

She wanted to paint the smiling couple anew on her mental canvas so that she could always see them that way. Not as a ball of flame. Not as judged and remanded souls in Smallville's own Day of Wrath.

"I made you some cocoa instead."

She looked up and forced a smile. "Thanks." She reached out to take the mug.

"I figured your favorite would be a better choice to chase away the nightmare."

"Yes." She nodded and tried to make her smile brave. "To chase it away."

"It's been a while since you dreamt that."

She watched as the soft hand drew a box of matches from a pocket of the robe.

"Shall I bring you one of my aroma-therapy candles? The scent is really soothing and the glow of the candle might make you feel--"

"--No!" She hadn't meant for the answer to be so violent, and, feeling foolish, she softened her tone. "Right now, I-I don't think I could stand the sight of a flame..."

The understanding smile and the quick nod let her know that she wasn't being silly.

"Sure. Whatever you want."

She took a long, grateful drink from the mug. "You're right. It has been a while since I had the nightmare." Another drink from the mug. "It comes back less and less frequently." She smiled bravely. "Eventually it won't come back. Ever."

Almost a minute went by in silence as she sipped the cocoa. She looked up and said, "I miss them still."

Another nod and then a sigh. "Yes, I know. I miss them, too. Every day."

A few more seconds went by. She finished the cocoa and put the mug on her nightstand.

"Do you want some more?"

She shook her head. "Thanks. It was good." She reached out and patted the soft hand. "I'm fine, now."

"You sure?"

She looked at the slightly furrowed brow and felt a wave of tenderness wash through her. *This* was her family now -- all of it. And it had been this way for quite a while.

"I'm sure. Really. I'll be okay." She brought out a hesitant smile and got a reassuring one in return. "Sorry I woke you up."

"I had to get up anyway to go to the bathroom. Then I heard you cry out."

"The nightmare won't come back for a while. I'll be okay."

She heard the soft sigh and felt a gentle pat on her shoulder.

"I'm glad. Good night, then."

"Lana?"

"Yes?" One hand was poised on the light switch, the other on the doorknob.

"Thanks for the cocoa. It really helped."

A smile. It was like theirs.

"You're welcome, Nell. Good night."

The door gently clicked shut.

~End~