by M. Edison
Walking down the corridor of the nursing home, Pete flashed a polite smile at a passerby then, with a frown, addressed his best friend. "Man, I don't know how I let you talk me into this."
After offering another resident a considerably more realistic smile, Clark shrugged, "Every Smallville High Student needs to complete 30 hours of community service."
"Yeah, but we could have served our community by being lifeguards at the girl's swim class at the Y, instead of hanging out with the denture crowd. I mean, what's the attraction?" No sooner had Pete said the words than the answer appeared in the form of Lana Lang, pushing a cart of books out of a room. "Nevermind. Now I get it."
Seeing them, Lana smiled at them both. "Hi Clark, Pete."
Pete nodded and glanced away, rolling his eyes in annoyance. This was getting ridiculous. The whole crush was bad enough but bordering on stalking . . . He was starting to think Clark needed shock therapy. Yeah, that was it. A few thousand volts would be just enough to get his attention.
He tuned back into the conversation in time to hear his friend, with the most obvious of fake surprise, say, "Lana! I didn't know you were volunteering here."
Speaking just above a mutter, Pete couldn't help but grumble, "Yeah, right." Could Clark be any more obvious? Clark's elbow nudging him was all the answer he needed. Of course not, there had to be a least five or six more levels of blatant obvious that Clark had yet to uncover.
Visions of the bathing beauties of Smallville floated through Pete's mind, a sharp contrast to the sights of Smallville's premiere geriatric facility that surrounded him and he resolved to ignore Clark's next `Get Closer to Lana' scheme as doggedly as possible. After all, it wasn't like he had a thing for Lana so why should he tag along?
Before him, Lana nodded quickly. "Yeah, for a couple of weeks now." She looked about them, oblivious to Pete's general annoyance with the situation. "Are you part of the companion program?"
"Yeah," Clark held up a piece of paper. "I'm supposed to be helping someone named Cassandra. She works with the music program here, I think . . . "
"She does, I've heard her playing here . . . it's really good." With a little smile of amusement, Lana added. "Cassandra's an interesting woman," Her smile took on a disbelieving edge. "Some of the nurses say she can see the future."
Pete rolled his eyes again. Oh great, not only was he getting suckered into volunteering at a nursing home, it was one with a so-called psychic on staff. Clark owed him big for this and, with a pointed look, he let his friend know exactly that. He glanced at his watch. "Well, I'm no psychic but I can say if we don't get movin', Ms. Carver's gonna have our heads for being late. C'mon, Clark. We still haven't found the common room."
With a polite smile to Lana, he continued on.
"I'll . . . uh . . . " Clark looked from Pete to the girl before him and back again. "I'd better catch up. See you later, ok?"
She nodded in response, waving once, and began pushing the cart down the corridor again while Clark hurried ahead calling for Pete to wait.
It took them another five minutes to find the common room and when they did, the only person in it was a young brunette. She sat in a chair beside the piano, a massive German shepherd at her feet, running her fingertips over the surface of a page of sheet music.
Clark's brow furrowed and was about to ask if Cassandra Carver had been by looking for anyone when the young woman lifted her head, turning her eyes in their general direction. "You're late..." A light laugh punctuated her words. "Two of you, hmm? Well, I'm sure I can find enough for you both to do."
Pete and Clark shared a surprised look and stopped just inside the doorway, staring at the blind woman.
Cassandra laughed again, patting the head of the big dog, who'd stood up at the boys' entrance. "Well, don't just stand there. Come in...I promise, Nemo won't bite...though, if I haven't been fed, I can't make the same guarantee about myself." She waved away the joke with a distracted hand. "Sorry...I'm told I have a disastrous sense of humor."
Slowly moving closer, Clark asked the question on the tips of both his and Pete's tongue. "How'd you know there were two of us?"
The brunette grinned. "I'm blind, not deaf." She laughed and gestured in Pete's direction. "I heard your little friend's shoes squeaking all the way down the hall. New sneakers?"
Pete's response was to ask, without preamble, "Can you really tell the future?"
His best friend groaned, closing his eyes briefly. "Way to go Pete. Real subtle."
"It's all right," Cassandra assured with a smile, her sightless eyes turning in Pete's direction. "Curiosity is a good quality to have...so tell me, Mr. Curious, what's your name?"
"Well, Mr. Ross, if you want your fortune told, go to the circus....I'm not Miss Cleo." She moved forward, intending on standing up, only to lose her grip on her papers, the sheet music spilling across the floor. "Oh..." She sighed ruefully.
Before she could bend to pick them up herself, Pete and Clark both moved forward, gathering up the braille-covered pages. When they'd gotten them all, Pete took the pages from his friend and handed them to the waiting woman, their hands brushing lightly.
An amused smile appeared on Cassandra's face. "Oh dear, Mr. Ross," She restrained a chuckle. "A suggestion: the next time you get out of your car...check the ignition for the keys....It's a long walk home."
Confused, the young man patted down his pockets, while Clark looked from Cassandra to him, then Pete sighed in dismay. "Oh man...I locked my keys in the car. Dude, you're on your own. I gotta go call somebody..." He smiled politely in Cassandra's direction, knowing she'd hear it in his voice. "Thanks, Ms. Carver...it was nice to meet you."
She returned the smile. "As brief as it was, Mr. Ross," She responded with a grin. "It was nice to meet you as well." As soon as he'd left the room, she turned her unseeing gaze in Clark's direction. "Now...what's your name?"
Clark had to admit, setting up chairs around the piano while listening to Cassandra practice wasn't a bad way to start out his volunteer work - she was very talented and the soft music that filled the room was beautiful. He finished setting up the last row and turned in time to see his newfound friend cease her playing and cover her mouth as she began to cough lightly.
He took a step forward. "Cassandra? Are you all right?"
She nodded, pressing a hand to her chest. "Yes...just..." She coughed again, standing. "Water...please."
Hurrying across the room, Clark filled a glass on a cart then rushed back to her side, pressing the glass into her hands. "Here you go."
She smiled her thanks, lifting the water to her lips. She froze suddenly, her entire body stiffening, and the glass slipped from her fingers and crashing to the floor. She turned toward Clark, confusion written across her features, and reached out blindly for him, her fingertips brushing his face.
He caught her hands, looking at her worriedly. "What's wrong?"
"Something..." She shook her head, distracted. "Someone...someone close to you...they were dying..."
"I have to go." He said, images of his parents and friends rushing through his mind. "I have to.."
"I understand..." Cassandra said softly. "You should go." She frowned. "I don't understand..." She murmured, dropping into her chair. "Something..." She lifted her head. "I'll see you tomorrow, Clark."
He nodded, not sparing a second to answer her, and rushed out the door.
Racing home, Clark heard the sound of the table saw running in the barn and immediately rushed inside, pulling the plug and frowning at his parents. "Guys, when you need this kind of stuff done, just ask me. That's what I'm here for!"
His mother removed her safety goggles and looked at him in confusion. He was acting quite...odd. "Is something bothering you, Clark?"
Exasperated, he shook his head. "No, I just think we should start putting safety first. If you haven't noticed, this stuff is pretty dangerous.." He added in reference to everything that surrounded them.
His father looked amused as he straightened up. "Well, this is a farm. It kind of goes along with the territory. Seriously, son, what's going on?"
Recalling Cassandra's cryptic words, Clark sat down and looked at his parents. "When I was at the retirement center, I met this blind lady that works there..I know this sounds crazy, but she can see the future..."
Martha shared a concerned look with her husband and took a step forward. "What did she tell you?"
Their son hesitated and admitted, "She said she saw someone close to me dying..."
Jonathan was understandably skeptical and more than a little angry at the woman who'd put such an idea in his son's head. "Listen, Clark...you can't let some...lady..scare you with a half baked prediction." He frowned. "She's probably lonely and looking for attention..."
Interrupting his father, Clark pointed out, "She told Pete the next time he gets out of his car, check the ignition for the keys....Seconds later he realized that he'd locked his keys in his car."
"No one can tell the future." His mother refuted patiently.
Pushing to his feet, Clark paced back and forth then stopped to look at his parents with frustration. "What if she can?! What if she told me because there's something I can do about it?"
Martha didn't relent. "Then she should have given you a little more information, like name, time, and place...."
"Even if she can predict the future," Her husband allowed, his facial expression plainly giving away his skepticism. "There's nothing she can do to control it. Nobody can."
Clark sighed heavily, looking upward. "I just..." He sighed. "She was genuinely upset, Dad. You haven't met her...she's not some con artist." He looked helplessly at his parents. "She's just not."
With Nemo in the lead, Cassandra made her way back into the common room, her sensitive ears being treated to a breathtaking melody being played out on the piano. Stopping by a chair, she rested her free hand on the wooden back and listened intently, smiling.
When the music culminated in a grand flourish, she let go of Nemo's harness to applaud softly. "You play beautifully."
An unfamiliar voice floated back to her from the piano. "I was supposed to attend the Metropolis Conservatory."
The confusion that young Mr. Kent had created in her mind was joined by more. "Your voice sounds young." She pointed out, her smile polite. "The Conservatory hasn't been open since the 70's....my father taught there, he moved back to Smallville after it closed."
The man at the piano chuckled ruefully, as if he'd said something he shouldn't. "I mean, I've always dreamed of attending there. That is, if I lived in a different time..."
"Ahh...I did the same when I was little." Cassandra admitted. "After I lost my sight..." She gestured to her eyes. "Music became my life..." She took a step forward, holding out a hand. "Any chance you'd care to try a duet? I promise not to hit your fingers."
She heard the piano stool scrape across the floor a little as he stood to his feet and moved toward her, stopping briefly at her side to whisper, "No, thank you, I already know my future."
A shiver ran down her spine as he walked away.
"Something very wrong is going on," she murmured to the dog at her side.
Nemo whined in response, licking at her hand in an attempt to reassure her.
It didn't work...she turned in the general direction the man had gone, listening intently for any sign of him, a sense of foreboding filling her. Something was very, very wrong.
Lifting a crate of produce out from the back of the truck, Clark looked in the direction of screeching tires in time to see Lex - in a black Ferrari - race around the corner, tires skidding wildly, and stop beside the truck. With a confident air, the billionaire emerged from the car with a grin.
He was surprised when a concerned Clark scolded him. "You might consider rounding those curves at a speed that won't actually break the sound barrier."
His grin widened and he shrugged. "Where's the fun in that?"
His friend didn't seem to see the humor in the situation and said, in all seriousness, "You could get hurt."
"Why the sudden interest in my health?" He questioned with some sarcasm, watching Clark's face curiously.
Embarrassed by Lex's scrutiny, he dropped his gaze, confessing. "I met this woman at the retirement center, and she can kind of see the future." Hefting the crate in his hands, he carried it toward the house, the other man falling into step with him.
"Yeah? She tell you your future?" Though skeptical, Lex was still interested.
Putting the crate by the door, Clark followed him inside. "Not exactly. She said she saw someone very close to me -"
"Dying?" Lex showed no surprise as he finished the sentence.
"I know it sounds nuts, but when you talk to her, it's like she really knows." The teen argued. "She's completely honest about it..."
Lex's tone could have dried out a martini as he countered, "Come on, Clark. She knows when she has a good audience."
"You sound like my parents."
An amused grin played about Lex's mouth. "That's gotta be a first."
Steadfast in his belief, Clark was still arguing in defence of Cassandra when they reached Lex's study. "Lex, I really think this woman is the real deal."
"Then the question you have to ask yourself is...do you really wanna know the future?" Lex asked archly, heading for the bar.
"Don't you wish you knew how it was all gonna turn out?" Clark asked frankly as they both reached for a bottle of Ty Nant.
Twisting the cap off his, Lex responded, "Life's a journey, Clark. I don't want to go through it following a road map."
"It still wouldn't kill you to drive more slowly."
"Why?" His friend countered with a small smile. "I have you as a friend. You changed my future once, right?" He held Clark's gaze, amusedly challenging him with the memory of the car accident.
Uncomfortable, the teen fidgeted, bringing a smirk from Lex. "I've got some more deliveries to make." With that, he turned and started out the door until his friend's voice brought him to a halt.
"You never told me this woman's name?"
"I thought you weren't interested?" Clark countered with interest.
"Maybe I'll ask her for some stock tips." Ever composed, Lex's answer was sarcastically dismissive.
Irritation in his eyes, his friend abruptly said, "Cassandra Carver," and left, leaving Lex to his water.
Cassandra was sitting at the piano, playing a light tune, when she tilted her head slightly and ceased the motion of her hands. "Are you going to come in or not, Mr. Kent?"
"How do you do that?" Clark asked curiously, moving closer.
"When one sense goes, the others get...heightened." She smiled lightly. "Though, I must admit, after yesterday...I wasn't sure you would come back." She gestured to the chair beside the piano stool. "Sit."
Smiling, he did as instructed but his smile didn't last long as he launched into the reason for his return. " What you told me, I can't get out of my head."
She smiled wryly. "Imagine how I feel. When it first started happening, I...I thought it was a curse. I kept getting snapshots of things I couldn't control."
"When did they start?" Clark prompted, interested in the story.
"When I first lost my sight." She laughed slightly. "It's funny how things like this happen--I woke up that morning, like any other. Then the meteors came. One hit a field behind my house while I was playing in the backyard...The flash burnt my optic nerves. Put me into a coma for three days..."
"I'm sorry." Confronted by yet another person whose life had been irrevocably changed by the meteor shower, a wave of guilt washed over Clark and he lowered his head.
"It's not your fault." Cassandra reassured gently, turning toward him.
Clark didn't respond, how could he? If she had known the truth, she'd feel differently, he knew that much.
Continuing, she added, "It's amazing how one moment can change your life forever."
"My friends and family, they think that you're..."
"A fraud?" Cassandra finished with a chuckle. "People are afraid of the unknown, Clark. They only want to know if everything is going to turn out all right and I can't guarantee that." She smiled ruefully before adding. "All I can show you are signposts on your journey. What you do with them is up to you...the future is a fluid thing, Clark, each decision you make can change a hundred different things without you even realizing it..."
"I've got so many questions in my life. I just want some answers." Clark answered softly.
Cassandra stood and moved the piano stool closer to him then held out her hand. "Take my hand..."
For a moment, he hesitated, knowing that taking her hand meant risking his secret. Common sense told him the potential answers she could give him weren't worth such a risk but his heart overruled the objection. Throwing caution aside, he placed his hand in hers and watched her with great curiosity. Nothing seemed to happen and then, as their hands shook a little, his mind came alive with images and he saw...
Himself, kneeling on soft grass, his eyes closed.
Thunder pounded overhead, followed immediately by bright flashes of lightening that lit up his surroundings, while the rain soaked him to the skin.
Suddenly he was seeing from his own perspective. Opening his eyes, he realized he was in a cemetery...
Surrounded by graves.
Shock tore into him at the inscription of the one before him.
"In memory of Jonathan Kent. Beloved Husband and Father".
Beside that stood one that read, "In memory of Martha Kent. Beloved Wife and Mother."
Growing more and more upset, Clark's gaze flew wildly from gravestone to gravestone.
Peter Ross, Chloe Sullivan, Lana Lang....
Spinning around, Clark found himself faced by a veritable sea of headstones.
Agony overwhelmed him and he released an anguished cry of, "NOOOOO!" and leapt back...
His hand tearing free of Cassandra's.
Upset, she lifted her head as if she could look him in the eye, "You saw that too?" She heard him breathing, and guessed he was staring at her and she waited for him to speak but, instead, he turned and raced from the room. Understanding his pain, she called his name, hoping he would come back but knowing he wouldn't.
Exhaling heavily, she pressed her face into her hands and wept.
His parents reaction to the vision he'd supposedly shared with Cassandra was not unexpected, both were typically skeptical and worried by Clark's dogged insistence that what he'd `seen' was the truth.
"Maybe you were having some kind of hallucination..." His mother suggested as they moved into the kitchen the next morning.
He frowned, insisting, "It wasn't a hallucination. It was a glimpse of the future--my future."
"And you saw an endless graveyard?" His father pressed skeptically.
"It was like I was the last person on earth."
Perplexed, Jonathan tried a different approach, "Look, son...I don't know what you did or didn't see, but come on--you have to consider the source here..."
"Your dad's right." Martha agreed, looking at her husband and nodding. "We don't know anything about this woman... You only met her a few days ago. What could you possibly know about her character?"
"I know she lost her vision in the meteor shower." He answered immediately. "She told me she was playing in the backyard when a meteor hit near her house and the flash burned her eyes."
His father looked skeptical. "Oh, and that makes it so she can predict the future? She was exposed to a meteor rock?"
"Is it so crazy? I get hit by a car and I'm fine. I walk through fire and I'm OK. What's next? Seeing the future's pretty tame don't you think?"
"It seems pretty subjective and surreal to me," His mother noted after some thought. "You can't let this one image--whatever it means--consume your whole life."
"What if it is my destiny?" Clark asked morosely. "What if I'm going to out live everyone that I love? I don't wanna be alone!" Upset, he turned away from them and walked across the kitchen as his parents shared a sigh and followed.
His father being the first to speak. "Clark...I don't know what your future holds..."
Clark turned to face them, hope on his face. "I think this woman has the answers."
Matter of factly, Jonathan responded with, "The only person who controls your destiny is you."
Growing upset again, the teenager shot back, "Well right now, I don't feel like I have control of anything." and left.
Worried, his parents shared a look of concern.
"What are we going to do?" Martha asked of her husband, running a hand down his arm.
He frowned. "I don't know yet...Let's see what else this `Cassandra' has to say."
As expected, Lex found the supposed `psychic' in the common room at the nursing home, sitting at the piano with her dog at her feet. It was where Cassandra Carver could be found almost every day, the home paid her a modest fee to play for the residents and she was there every day with few exceptions. He watched for a moment as her fingers danced lightly across the ivory keys, coaxing a soft melody from the beautiful piano. She stopped when Nemo lifted his head, a sound caught between a question and a warning emanating from his throat.
Her head tilted, listening, and she rested her hands in her lap. "Does that expensive cologne come with a name?"
He smiled reflexively. "Lex Luthor."
Cassandra's brown curls brushed against her back as she turned, sightless eyes staring straight ahead. "Oh. Of Luthor Everything Incorporated?"
He chuckled. "More or less."
"And what does the savior of Smallville want with a blind woman?" She lifted a brow.
Her expectant attitude caused his smile to widen and Lex moved closer. "You seem to have made a real impression on my friend Clark."
She smiled, bemused. "So, you came to see for yourself?"
Reaching out, Lex pulled one of the chairs closer to the piano stool, and sat down, clasping his own hands before him. "Clark's not stupid. If he says you know things, there must be something that made him think that. Something you did."
Abruptly, Cassandra's demeanor changed and she frowned. "I've the feeling, Mr. Luthor, that you're not here for stock tips"
He leaned forward, one hand reaching out but stopping just short of touching hers. "Please. Call me Lex. I was hoping you could give me some insight into Clark."
Her frown deepened. "And you call him a friend, do you? It seems to me, when one is looking for insight into a friend, they go to that friend. They don't track down a blind woman, they don't even know, to ask her for psychic visions. May I ask why you're going so far out of your way?"
The sightless eyes turned in his direction and Lex had the feeling that even though the lovely Ms. Carver couldn't physically see his face, she saw him very well. "He saved my life..." He admitted finally. "but he's also a mystery."
She chuckled. "Most people are. That's what makes them interesting. It makes life interesting."
"I'm willing to treat this as a professional service," he replied, hedging around the unspoken reprimand and the air that she knew far more about him than he did her.
The young woman shook her head. "Save your money, Lex. I can't tell you about Clark... even if I wanted to....which, I don't. I may have the ability to look into people's lives, but I do not have the inclination to go running around sharing that information, especially not for money. After all, if I betray Clark in that way...what would stop me from doing the same to you? Or anyone like you?"
Lex smiled tightly, annoyed, but Cassandra didn't give him the chance to respond."Besides, I can only tell the future of the person I touch." With a smile, she held out her hand. "Well?"
She felt him withdraw from her, clearly uncomfortable with the idea, and tightly say, "I don't need to know my future."
Lex was surprised by the sympathetic expression on her face. It was a marked difference from her superiority of moments before. "Why? Because your father already has it mapped out for you?"
He leaned forward, forcing the surprise aside in favor for an intense answer that, held an unexpected edge of anger. "I believe we make our own destiny."
She nodded, inclining her head curiously. "And you're not even the slightest bit tempted? You don't want a glimpse of what that destiny will turn out to be? Life can throw us unexpected curve balls, Lex. As they say, the best laid plans and all that...Who knows? Maybe I'll see your friend Clark....or maybe I'll see something else entirely."
She felt his cool gaze on her then, he quietly said. "Goodbye, Ms. Carver. It's been enlightening."
Cassandra smiled. "For at least one of us." A faint draft of wind, generated by the motion of his body, brushed across her face and she knew he was leaving. "Come back again, hmm? When you're ready." He offered no reply and she sighed. "If you're ready..."
Cassandra was on her way to the common room, intent on practicing for the upcoming birthday party of a resident, when she heard teenage voices speaking, one familiar one in particular.
"Clark? Is that you?"
The voices ceased speaking and there was a pause then she heard Clark say something softly and she heard the sound of his footsteps approaching her. She reached out, lightly brushing his sleeve. "The other night...you left so fast..." She let Nemo guide her to nearby chairs. "Please...sit."
His silence distressed her but she felt relief when she felt his presence as he sat down beside her. Hesitantly, she fidgeted with Nemo's harness before speaking. "I..uh.. I..." She cleared her throat then tried again. "I hoped you'd come back."
The teenager's guilt was almost palpable. "I'm sorry." He said finally. " You saw that... whatever it was..."
Cassandra lightly brushed a hand over her dog's head, rubbing his ears. "I always see them." She turned her head in his direction. "The question is...how did you?"
Confused, Clark's brow furrowed. "I don't know. Wasn't I supposed to?"
She shook her head. "No one ever has..."
Clark's confusion deepened. "But, why me?"
She smiled gently. "Because, we both know... " She paused then added in a soft murmur. "...you're not like other people."
Clark's eyes widened dramatically and answered nervously. "Sure I am."
"No, Clark." She disagreed with a shake of her head then revealed, "I've seen you... before we ever met. More than once, I've touched people, and I've seen such pain and despair and...but then you were there, and the pain was gone."
He said nothing and she didn't need her sight to know he was both surprised and very overwhelmed by the very thought and she knew her next revelation wouldn't ease the sensation. "I think that's your destiny, Clark--to help people. To save them from fear and darkness."
Mulling it over, Clark finally asked. "How?"
She shrugged. "Well, that's for you to figure out. You can fear the future, or... you can embrace it." She held out her hand. "The choice is yours."
The last thing in the world he wanted to do was take her hand and be treated to another vision like the previous one but, as fearful as he was, Clark simply couldn't leave it at that. He couldn't believe that all that awaited him in his future was pain and death. He just couldn't.
So, with his heart in his throat, Clark looked at the patiently waiting Cassandra and he placed his hand in hers and saw...
A young blonde screaming as she was attacked...
An overturned car bursting into flames...
A little girl trapped in a burning house, terrified and clutching a teddy bear to her little chest...
The young blonde woman again...grasping desperately at her throat then, in the next instant, lying in the street, her expression one of pure terror....
The overturned car again, a close up on the driver, an injured man, gasping in pain...
Glass shattering overlaid by a silver unicorn pendant, sparkling in the light...
The little girl shivering in fear as the flames crept higher and more threatening...
The young blonde looking terrified...
The vision faded and Clark let go of Cassandra's hand. "Who are they?"
The clairvoyant simply said, "People who need your help."
Unsatisfied with her answer, Clark pressed. "How am I supposed to help them if I don't know who they are?"
Faintly amused by his persistence and saddened that not even she could give him the answers he so doggedly sought, Cassandra waved at him dismissively. "I'm not a radio, Clark, I don't pick up continuous transmissions. I see what I see and that was all I saw."
A hint of the man he would become showed through when he decisively said, "I'll figure it out." his mind already focused on ways to do so, so much so he seemed to have forgotten her presence until she woke again.
"Clark..." She smiled. "Your secret is safe with me."
He said nothing but she could almost feel his smile radiating from him before he turned and hurried off to find his friends.
The next time Lex visited Cassandra Carver, he did so at her home. Just as before, Nemo - her Seeing Eye dog/protector - lay at her feet but this time, he was `off duty' and his harness lay on a table next to his mistress. Just in case she required it.
Emerging from his car to see her sitting on her veranda, the young billionaire couldn't deny she was a lovely woman. Her sightless eyes still sparkled with life and her hair glowed with an inner vibrance as the sunlight filtered across the veranda, lighting it up. If it weren't for her unnerving ability, he had to admit he might have pursued a relationship with her. He wouldn't deny the attraction was there but he'd already determined, it was too risky to pursue. Letting the door of his car swing shut with a loud thud, he glanced at the white roses in his hand then started forward.
When he neared the veranda, she smiled and rose to greet him. "Well...you're the last person I
expected to come to my home."
He laughed. "I come bearing gifts."
The lovely scent reached her nose and Cassandra chuckled. "So did the Greeks...look what happened there."
Lex grinned, and held them out so she could take them. It was ironic that she would mention that when he considered her name in connection with her psychic abilities. It seemed Greek mythology had come to life in the form of a blind musician. " I wanted to take you up on your offer."
She lifted the roses closer to her nose, inhaling appreciatively, resting a hand on Nemo's head. "Hmm...I thought you controlled your own destiny?"
Moving closer, he looked the big dog in the eye, trying to achieve some sort of assurance he wouldn't have his throat ripped out. Nemo, however, didn't seem in the mood to grant any as he settled down but kept a watchful eye on the newcomer . "I do." He replied with conviction. "But certain things have happened in my life. Signs I don't want to ignore."
Curious, Cassandra stepped back, gesturing for him to take a seat. "What kind of signs?" She asked as she sat and heard Lex seat himself on the chair across the table.
"I lived when I should have died. There must be a reason for that. You see, I don't want to do good things." He paused, contemplating how to word his next statement. "I want to do great things."
She turned her head in his direction. "You don't need me for that."
He couldn't resist jibing her. "What's the matter, Cassandra? Are you afraid of what you'll see?"
The lovely brunette snorted lightly. "I live in Smallville, after all the things I've seen over the last few years..." She swiftly shook her head then held out a hand. "Remember, you've been warned."
Lex hesitated, looking at her small hand for a long moment, deciding whether or not to actually take the final step then, with a deliberately even motion, clasped it in his.
A soft gasp escaped Cassandra as her mind was suddenly overrun with a dizzying array of images. She felt paralyzed as she watched Lex, clad in a pure white suit, moved from the Oval Office - his office - and into a field. A soft moan of horror followed the gasp when the sunflowers that had filled the field withered and - in their place - lay human bones. When the sky darkened and the storm loomed, she shivered and tried to shut her inner eyes when the clouds turned the color of blood which then began to pelt down onto the earth...
Instinctively, she yanked her hand away from Lex. The contact broken, she sat back, her entire body consumed by the uncontrollable shivering.
Worried, the billionaire waited for her to speak but she said nothing, hugging herself instead.
Finally, he reached out to brush his fingertips against her arm. "What did you see?"
She lifted her head, as if just then remembering he was there, then lowered it once more. Her shivers subsided but still, she did not speak.
"Cassandra?" He prompted softly, his worry blossoming into full-fledged fear. "What is it? What did you see?"
Giving in to her rattled emotions, the young woman hid her face in her hands and began to weep softly. Lex was on his feet in an instant and moving toward her but Nemo halted his forward motion with a warning growl. The dog clearly hadn't missed his mistress's emotional distress nor the fact that her visitor was the cause of it. Rising ominously, he planted himself between them, showing no signs of letting him by.
Again, Lex said her name, trying to draw her out, to understand what had made her react so. He knew whatever she had seen, it had terrified her, shaken her to the core, and the very idea of that scared him just as badly.
"Nemo." Her quiet voice broke the tense silence and, immediately, the dog backed down. The transformation was almost shocking. Turning, he returned to her side, resting his head on her knee, whining in concern. She reflexively rubbed his head, reassuring him. "It's ok, boy, I'm fine."
Lex's question drew her head up again and she turned her eyes in the general direction of his voice. "I will be." She fought back a shudder. "It's just..." She sighed. "I actually was scared by what I saw."
Cautiously, he moved closer, keeping a watchful eye on the dog, who - in return - kept a watchful eye on him. "I know it's a bad time to ask."
Cassandra straightened up and, even with her tear-streaked face, she pulled herself back under control, wearing her dignity like a protective shroud. "But you deserve to know just what it is that I did see. You need to know. You're the only one who can change it."
Since the particularly heavy conversation was not one that should be shared sitting on a veranda in the bright sunlight, even if one of two parties was blind, Cassandra led Lex into her house and the kitchen saying, "I need tea for this, I think."
She directed him to sit at the kitchen table and he watched as, with a competence that he shouldn't have been surprised by, she quickly moved about the room. When she set the kettle on the burner and turned it on, he had to ask. "Do you live here alone?"
"Mmhmm...just me and Nemo." She nodded. "And yes, I can cook my own meals. Everything here is set up so that I don't need to see to be able to cook safely." A broken laugh escaped her and she brushed a hair away from her face. "Inane isn't it? Us talking about everything but what we need to talk about."
He smiled. "Defense mechanism. You don't want to relive it and I'm not sure I want to hear it."
"I don't...and you don't." She replied quietly. "But we have to."
"It's that bad?"
"It could be."
They fell into a contemplative silence, Lex thinking on what it could be, Cassandra wondering what could be done to prevent it. He lifted his head, opening his mouth to speak, but found himself being cut off by the shrill whistle of the kettle. His hostess heard the sigh of annoyance and smiled apologetically. "It is rather loud." Lifting it from the burner, she turned off the stove once more and then poured a cup for herself. "Would you like some?"
The solicitous manner in which she behaved surprised him and, after saying yes, Lex found himself asking. "Why do you do that?"
"Do what?" Bringing the two mugs to the table, she turned again to get the cream and sugar.
"Treat me like this."
Her brow furrowed and she sat before him. "Like a human being instead of an Olympian god?" The crack slipped past her lips and she had the grace to blush. "My apologies. I suppose, it's not in my nature to be impressed by money. Maybe it's my blindness, I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter to me if your clothing comes from a department store or Ralph Lauren. The Luthors may own half of Kansas and the Midwest, not to mention whatever international holdings you have, but you're still bound to the same laws of nature all humans are." An amused smile touched her lips. "As the saying goes, you put your pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us."
"And you know that how?" He teased, relaxing.
She grinned. "Well, I am supposed to be psychic you know."
The reminder of that fact soured the mood quickly as they both turned back to the thought of her vision. It hung between them like the spectre at the banquet, warning of impending doom.
Sighing, Cassandra brought her mug to her lips to take a fortifying breath then, without any preamble, launched into a description of her vision. Lex was grateful for the fact she couldn't see him, he knew without a doubt that his face grew paler and paler with every word that crossed her lips. He knew the vision had to be bad but what she was detailing to him. If it was the truth....his future was monstrous.
When she was done, she hesitated then blurted out, "I'm sorry....I had no idea when I offered you the chance...I didn't know it would turn out like this."
His voice sounding foreign to even him, Lex shook his head as he replied, "Don't be. Forewarned is forearmed, isn't that the saying? Maybe now that I know...I can do something to stop it."
"I sincerely hope so."
He noticed her hesitance. "What?"
Her dark curls rustled against her shoulders as she shook her head. "I'm not sure, it's silly to worry about it I'm sure." Her fingers absently caressed the ceramic of the mug she held. "The thing about seeing the future is the uncertainty. I'm never entirely sure if I'm seeing what I'm seeing because I'm meant to warn that person, to give them a chance to change it, or to affirm something they aren't yet aware of, or if it's a warning to be prepared for what comes. Or worse...if my seeing it, and giving voice to it, sets in motion the very chain of events that leads to it."
"It's a morbid responsibility." He agreed softly then, hesitantly asked, "So in this case..."
"I don't know." She answered truthfully. "My instincts say it's a warning, a chance for you to fix this, to prevent it - I pray it is..." Sightless eyes turned toward his and, very softly she said, "Because you were the loneliest man in the world."
The sounds of the oven timer and a knock at the door intermingled and, as she hurried into the kitchen, Martha sighed with near-annoyance. This was the last thing she needed. Jonathan and Clark would be back from town in a little while and between her work, a few visitors, and a dozen other things that had cropped up she hadn't even started on dinner.
"Just a minute!" She called to the unfamiliar young woman waiting in the doorway.
"Take your time." The brunette replied placidly, staring straight ahead.
Rescuing the pie, she set it aside and pulled off the oven mitts before rushing to the door. "Sorry," She apologized, falling silent when she saw the large German shepherd by the newcomer's side. The dog tilted his head and surveyed her with warm eyes and she had the distinct impression he found her reaction amusing. "Uh...Come on in." Stepping back, she opened the door and let her visitors in.
"Mrs. Kent? I'm a friend of Clark's." The young woman began then smiled ruefully. "Cassandra Carver, I'm sure you've heard of me."
The conversations about the woman before her suddenly filled Martha's mind and she hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. "Yes, yes, Clark's been talking about you...you..."
"Scared him?" Cassandra's rueful smile remained as she allowed her dog to navigate the kitchen for her. "I'm afraid that happens often. People are often afraid of the future. Of what may happen. I had no wish to scare him but what I see is what I see, I can't control that." Her expression lightened. "But you can be sure, his future is going to be..." She paused then shrugged. "Heroic. You and your husband have done a wonderful job raising him."
"Thank you." Martha replied cautiously. "Ms. Carver....about Clark."
"That's why I'm here." The young woman held out a hand, brushing her fingertips across the elder woman's sleeve. "I wanted to reassure you. Anything I saw about him, I will never share with anyone but him. His secrets and his truths are his and his alone, I don't have the right to tell anyone else. You have my word, Mrs. Kent, anything I know about your son I will take to my grave without telling anyone."
"Thank you for saying so but you understand.."
"You can't be sure." The clairvoyant nodded. "I know that and it would be ridiculous of me to expect you to trust me so soon, we've just met after all, with your son's very life. All I can say is I would never allow anything to happen to Clark because of me. I refuse to. There is..." She fell silent. "He means too much to too many people to even consider making such a mistake."
Cassandra was right, it was too soon for Martha to trust her but the elder woman couldn't deny her apparent sincerity. The young woman's words had been filled with a fierce determination to hold to her word and loyalty to Clark. "What do you mean by that?" She asked quietly. "Too many people? Why would he?"
The young woman shook her head. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Kent, but when I said I would never share it with anyone but him I meant it. Not even his own mother. If he wishes to share it with you then that is his business, but until he tells me himself it's all right, I can't."
Martha smiled at the firm denial. It was an encouraging sign. "You must understand, Ms. Carver," She said quietly. "My husband and I, we have a hard time believing that you..."
"Can really see the future?" Cassandra finished for her with a light laugh. "So do I most of the time. When I was younger I tried to deny it, I convinced myself I was just daydreaming about the people I met. But, in truth, all along, I knew it wasn't so. I was seeing them exactly as they were physically...which was impossible, as some of them I had never seen before. Then, when I realized that some things I saw came true or others were averted, I couldn't deny it."
"How did you develop this...ability?"
"I'm not sure, really. I didn't have it when I was a young child but, after the meteor shower, after I lost my sight, it just started happening. They say if you lose one sense, the others heighten to compensate..I've always theorized that's what happened with my `sixth' sense."
Thinking back to the chaotic year after the meteor shower, Martha recalled hearing about a young girl who'd lost her sight as a result of a meteor impacting near her home. "When the meteor struck, the flash..."
"Burned my optic nerves." She nodded. "When I woke up in the hospital some time later, I was entirely blind. It wasn't long before I began seeing things." She laughed again. "When my parents realized what was happening, they took me to a neurologist in Metropolis. He said there was unusual brain activity, nothing dangerous, but he couldn't determine the cause of it. He did wonder if something in the meteor hadn't caused it but there was no evidence to suggest it was so. Since I didn't seem to be suffering any adverse affects from the visions, they determined them harmless and sent me home.'
"And you've had them ever since." Martha put forward, throughly interested in the conversation. If Cassandra's visions had indeed originated from the meteor shower, that could testify to their validity. It wouldn't be the first time something extraordinary had happened to someone because of them.
"Yes," Her guest's brow furrowed in thought. "But they were different with Clark."
"He experienced them with me. That's never happened before. I always see it then relate it to them, which - if the news isn't good - allows me to relate it in gentler terms. Clark, however, he saw everything I saw at the same moment I did." Cassandra sighed. "I'm afraid that's what scared him so. I didn't have a chance to explain things to him. What I saw, for the most part, is a good life - I will tell you that - and one to be proud of. Not to be feared. Life isn't something to be afraid of, even the end of it."
"You saw people around him dying." Martha pointed out, remembering what Clark had said.
"Everyone dies." The clairvoyant countered calmly. "It's just a matter of when."
"And if you saw someone dying sooner than they were supposed to?"
"Well, I don't believe I did." Cassandra answered reluctantly. "But that, for now, is something I will discuss with Clark." She smiled. "As I said, Mrs. Kent, I came here to reassure you of my silence where Clark's....abilities, are concerned. Anything I know...I will not share." With a signal to her dog, she turned toward the door. "You can believe me when I say, his secrets aren't mine to share, no matter who I'm talking to. Good day, Mrs. Kent."
When the screen door swung shut behind her, Martha moved to watch her make her way down the steps. "Good day, Ms. Carver." She said somewhat belatedly. "And thank you." She couldn't say exactly how she knew but she knew. Clark's secret was safe. With Cassandra at least...
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