A/N- Here's a short little chapter this time. These two scenes actually fall into the timeline of Chapter 12 (and hypothetically could have been part of Appear, Disappear if the chapter hadn't already been so ridiculously long that it had to be split into two posts). The first occurs the morning after the final scene of last chapter, and the second falls shortly after Lana left Jimmy and Chloe amid the ghosts of 33.1. So yes, chronologically these two scenes are out of order, but that's for a reason.
I know many (okay, all) of you are angry with my decision to kill Raya, but believe me when I say that it honestly can't be helped. I first realized in June that even as I saved Raya, she probably wasn't going to last very long. I knew all along that she would have to die. I tried to find a way around it, but it just wasn't going to happen. Both from a literary perspective, and from a plot-driven perspective, it was inevitable. Raya is the senseless crime, the wasted life that seems to have no rhyme or reason. And I think the story-serving reason is pretty thoroughly examined in this chapter, so I won't go into that in my notes. It just about killed me to do it, it really did, but it was something that had to be done. Logically, she could have lived, if I had decided to take her battle with the unnamed fugitive in a different direction.
In the end, if I saved her, I would have been doing it not because it was what was best for the story. I would have been doing it because I didn't want her to die. And although I put only some of my actual capacity into my fanfic, I adhere enough to the writers' code even here that I couldn't do such a thing. If I protected Raya only because she was a character I adored, I would be serving my own interests, not the story's. I think, however, I did do her one small justice and that is this: she did not serve only as a plot point. To the actual SV writers, I think Raya served only the purpose of moving the story forward. If I have achieved my goals here (and judging by your reactions, I have), then Raya became more than "that Kryptonian chick that died that one time." She was a person. She lived and breathed and had quirks and hopefully you were as invested in her as I was.
That's the only gift I can give to Raya in Shatterpoint. I made sure that when she died, it actually meant something. Maybe some of you shed tears for her. That's all I could do for her here. Here's to hoping that in some future story, I'll be able to do more.
13. Shifting Lines
"I am no solution
To the sound of this pollution in me.
And I was not the answer,
So forget you ever thought it was me."
-The Goo Goo Dolls
Martha Kent surveyed her son with a critical eye as he poured himself a glass of lemonade. She was worried about him. That wasn't an unusual state of affairs, to be honest. All parents worried about their children, and Martha had more reason to fret than most mothers. Her concern for her only son had become an almost perpetual state of affairs since losing her husband, his father.
In the weeks since Raya had descended upon his life like a whirlwind, she had seen a change in him. He had seemed happier, comfortable in his own skin in a way that she had never seen before. It was a blessing to know that her confused son was finally finding a way to come to terms with his life and his heritage.
In one senseless second, however, Raya had been killed and Clark had lost a tangible link to Krypton that Martha sensed he had desperately needed. She worried that this latest blow might send him spiraling out of orbit once more, and she didn't know if she would be strong enough to pull him back this time. She hadn't been able to do it after losing Jonathan. She had been too lost in her own grief to be able to find the right words, and it had only been Clark's own nature that had saved him then. Martha honestly didn't know how to handle this.
He hadn't come home last night. Or at least if he had, it had been very late, long after she herself had gone to bed. He had disappeared after Raya's immolation and she hadn't seen him until this morning, when he brought in the milk.
"Clark-" she began gently, uncertain on how to broach the topic. "How are you doing?"
He set the glass in the sink and looked over at her. "I'm... doing," he replied tiredly.
"I know this must be hard for you," Martha said, a soft opportunity presented in case her reticent son felt like opening up to her.
Leaning back against the cabinets, he braced his hands against the countertop. "It feels like I was only just getting to know her," he said.
Martha nodded. "She was an amazing woman," she said. "I think we're all lucky to have had her in our lives if only for a short time."
One corner of Clark's mouth twitched upward. "Meeting her- it changed everything. Everything I ever thought about Kryptonians... she turned it all on its head. And it's not just that, either. I liked her. She was-" He hesitated, and Martha waited patiently while he struggled with whatever it was he was trying to say. He visibly wrestled with himself for almost a full minute, and when he finally spoke, he seemed to have changed directions.
"It never bothered me that I was an only child," he informed her. "Once or twice I wished I had a little brother or sister to share my secret with, but it wasn't something I thought about much. But lately I've wondered- I look at Chloe, and she doesn't have any siblings but she still has a sister. She has that kind of bond with someone. I wondered what that would feel like.
"I had a cousin," he added abruptly. "Her name was Kara. I saw her picture at the Fortress. I found myself wondering what it would be like if Krypton hadn't been destroyed, or if Kara had made it to Earth with me and we'd grown up together. I regretted that so much, having lost this person who might have been like my big sister if things had been different, but it was alright. Even though I'd lost Kara before I even knew her, I still had Raya. And we weren't blood relatives, but in a lot of ways, she was family. She could have been like a sister. But now she's gone."
Martha stepped closer and laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Clark," she said.
He stared up at the ceiling, and she wondered if he were hiding the brightness she was sure was in his eyes.
"Do you know what the last thing she said to me was?" he asked. "She told me I wasn't allowed to blame myself."
She had worried about that, too. Clark had a noble- if somewhat naive- tendency to take responsibility for every tragedy that befell the people around him. She could understand why, but it worried her. It couldn't be healthy for his young shoulders to bear all that weight.
"Ever since she died, I've been racking my brains, trying to find something I could have done to save her," he said.
"Clark-" Martha began, but he interrupted her.
"The thing is... I can't," he said, looking and sounding completely nonplussed, as if having the realization for the first time. "I keep going over everything that led up to her being killed and there's just... nothing. I did everything right. We divided up the workload on everything that was happening that day in the way that made the most sense. The second I thought she might be in trouble, I left right away to help her. I don't know. Maybe if I'd been a little faster... except that I just don't see how I could have been."
Martha tightened her grip on his shoulder in reassurance. "That's because it wasn't your fault, Clark," she said.
He nodded slowly, still with that air of bafflement about him. "I know. I wish it had gone a different way, but I don't see how I could have stopped it."
That helpless feeling was one she could identify with completely. "It's natural to feel this way," she told him softly. "If we all had crystal balls, maybe we could find a way to stop tragedies like this from happening, but even the best of us is fallible. Even when we do everything right, sometimes things still happen that we can't control. You did the right thing, but-"
"But I couldn't save her," Clark finished.
"The two of you did save a lot of people, though," Martha pointed out.
A little smile pulled at his mouth. "I know," he said. "If she hadn't intercepted that thing when she did, he could have killed a lot more people. I still don't understand what actually happened there at the end- who it was that saved me- but it could have been so much worse."
The pair of them stayed silent for a few moments, both going over their private thoughts.
Breaking the stillness after a minute or so, Martha asked, "Now that I'm sure you're going to be alright, would you care to explain where you were last night?"
To her amazement, her ordinarily stoic son blushed crimson. "I, um... I was at the Talon," he said.
Unable to discern the cause of Clark's uncharacteristic reaction, Martha asked, "What, with Chloe?"
He shook his head and avoided her eyes. "No. I- I ran into Lois yesterday afternoon. I kind of gave her the cliffnotes version of what happened to Raya and we ended up going back to her apartment and-"
Martha's mind was cooking up all sorts of scenarios to explain his sudden awkwardness, most of which she did not want to imagine in conjunction with her son. She was relieved, therefore, when he mumbled: "-And we had a couple of beers."
"Clark Kent!" she exclaimed.
"I know I'm underage, but I-" He held up his hands in flustered apology. "Alcohol doesn't affect me, but it just felt... like the right thing to do? I don't know. Don't be mad at Lois. She was just trying to help, and- well, she's really easy to talk to. And it got really late so I just ended up crashing there."
Martha studied him with a look of maternal disapproval, just enough to make him squirm a little. "I don't want to hear of this happening again," she said sternly. She held his gaze, impressing her seriousness on him, before adding, "That said, I know how upset you were after yesterday, and I'm glad you were with Lois instead of wandering around by yourself. Just because you're invulnerable doesn't mean I don't worry about you."
"I'm sorry, Mom," he said sincerely.
"I know you are," she replied.
In truth, she was a little relieved. The ideas Raya had planted concerning the exact nature of Clark's relationship with one Lois Lane were clearly getting to her. Although she certainly wasn't too pleased with the actual nature of what Clark had gotten up to the night before, underage drinking was definitely an improvement over some of the things she'd been imagining.
The more she had thought about it, the more she realized that Raya was correct and there really was something very unique between her son and her tempestuous chief of staff. She didn't know entirely what it might be, and heaven knew they didn't. If anything more than friendship ever came of it, she hoped that it would happen under better circumstances. With the way Clark and Lois could be with each other, any romantic relationship they might or might not have would have the potential to be something special. If it ever happened, the pair of them deserved a better beginning than an unexpected encounter brought about by grief and hazy from alcohol. A few drinks shared between two friends was a far better outcome for the evening, even if wasn't entirely on the right side of the law.
She ruffled her son's hair with a smile, wondering if he realized just how often he sought Lois out when he was distressed.
Two days earlier...
Lana almost ran up the walk to the front door of the mansion. The insistent tug in her gut that drew her inexorably back to Lex was driving her forward. Ever since his return, she had clung close to his side. The terror that his disappearance had provoked was not easily shaken. She still felt that he might vanish away from her at any moment if she didn't keep him close. Almost as soon as Jimmy and Chloe had left in triumph the night before, what had started as a simple kiss of reassurance from Lex had quickly detoured to the bedroom- or, more accurately, the divan in the solarium. Their passionate coupling had gone a long way toward calming her fears, but her irrational core was still refusing to believe that he wouldn't just vanish once more.
The only reason she had been persuaded to travel to Metropolis to meet Chloe and Jimmy that evening on the empty floor Bronson had claimed housed some kind of experimental facility was because Lex himself had urged her to go. For the sake of their relationship, he said, he didn't want her to have any doubts that he was being truthful. After his mistakes with the halfway house and the RL-65, Lana was eager to do anything that would take the final step to reinstating her faith in him.
Her curiosity had been satisfied, and now she was eager to return to her lover's side.
She found him just as he was coming out of the library.
"That was fast," he remarked. "I thought you'd be gone at least another hour."
She shrugged, smiling gently against his lips as he leaned in to kiss her without even giving her a chance to respond. Once he relinquished her mouth, she said, "I saw everything I needed to see. 33.1 was just a figment of this guy's imagination."
"Of course it was," he replied. "You know I would never do something like that."
"I do know. And I didn't want to be gone too long, anyway," she added.
A rare smile graced his features, and he studied her intently. "Come with me," he said, taking her by the hand.
She grinned flirtatiously, thinking she knew exactly what he had in mind. She was surprised, therefore, when he led her in the direction of the study rather than the bedroom. Her assumption was further shaken when he threw open the doors to the study and led her into a room transformed. The furniture had all been moved, replaced by dozens of little tables of varying heights, each covered in long-stem scarlet roses. White tapers flickered in silver holders all throughout the indoor garden, reflecting against the darkening glass of the windows. A low fire was laid in the grate, and Lex led her through the maze of blood-red flowers to a table at the center.
"Lana, I know things have been strained between us lately," he said. "I could feel your uncertainty, but I didn't know what to do to make it better so instead of saying something, I let it go on in silence. I should have talked to you."
He held up a hand. "No, Lana, let me say this. I don't know what's made you pull away from me these past few weeks, but I'm sorry for it. I was afraid to say anything because I was so afraid I was losing you." His face was impassive, but his eyes betrayed something she was afraid to name. "Then, with everything that happened yesterday, I realized that couldn't be farther from the truth. When I heard you speaking, everything that you said when I was trapped there, I realized that what was holding us apart wasn't you. It was me. It was my own fear holding me back from saying what I really wanted to say... from asking what I really wanted to ask."
He turned to the only thing sitting on the table before them: a small silver box. He plucked it from the table and opened it. Inside, nestled in midnight-blue satin, was a massive diamond set in a silver band.
Lana's stomach dropped and her heart turned inside out as she suddenly and belatedly realized what Lex was doing.
"Lana Lang, will you marry me?"
No sweet nothings from Lex. No desperation written plain on his face. No kneeling down before her, subjecting himself to her judgment. No, Lex stood tall before her, offering her his ring and his name on her level. Eye to eye. He would not be forced down at her feet, she knew him too well to expect that. His own nature would never allow it.
With difficulty, she moved her eyes from the sparkling ring he held before him to meet his icy blue gaze.