Survivor: A City of Heroes novel


Chapter 13 - "Conversations"

" don't get it, do you?! I have metal for hands....


Jon Smith spun on one heel and stalked off, heading south.

Stray started to run after him. "Jon....."

"Don't.....!" he snarled, snapping his claws into view, without turning his head.

He stomped his way across Steel Canyon, unaware of the shadow that followed him, flitting behind in the azure sky.

Linuial hovered to the ground, followed him into his apartment building.

In the hallway, the blonde woman knocked softly.

"GO AWAY!" Jon shouted, his voice muffled by the closed door.

"Jon, it's Linuial," she said quietly.

There was a long moment of silence, followed by a click. She turned the doorknob, walked into the room.

Jon was walking back across the room to the bed, sat down on the edge. He rested his elbows on his knees, hung his head, clasped his hands.

"....tell Stray I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at her like that," he said without looking up.

Linuial smiled. "She knows, Jon." She walked across the room to the chair, seated herself. "None of us really knows what it's like for you, Jon. She didn't mean any harm."

He sighed without looking up. "Yeah....I know."

Linuial waited.

"...look, I really don't want to talk about it, okay?" he said quietly.

"I know, Jon." She paused. "You don't really have anyone to talk to, do you?"

There was a long silence. "No."

"No one knows what it's like for you, it's true, but you're not the only one that's alone. Chris has Anya, Blood has Pangea, even quiet, bookish Mathias has a girlfriend, true. But Stray is alone, and just like you, I have no idea what it's like for a Kheldian. It must be very....difficult. Being partly alien, not even human. I can't imagine how she must feel....or how other people feel about her. It must be very lonely, especially when she's not around other Kheldians."

He sighed deeply. "Yeah....I guess I should apologize to her myself."

"She jokes around.....a lot. It's her way of coping. She's not being sarcastic or cruel when she tells you 'you need a girlfriend'....I think, in a way, she's actually worried about you. She teases you, yes, but that's mostly because she likes you."

"Likes me?" He looked up, scepticism written plain on his disfigured face, then looked down again as despair replaced it. ".....not like that...."

Linuial smiled. "Perhaps not....but she does like a friend, as an SG-mate, as a battle companion. Is it so impossible that she might be able to feel more than that about you, one day? Have you ever considered giving her a chance?"

"Lin, look at me." He looked up, held up his arms, mutely, dropped them again. "I have metal for arms. Do you have any idea what it would feel like if I even tried to hug someone?"


"It would be like being hugged by a nutcracker, and I'm not talking about one of those cuddly wooden Christmas dolls, either." He stared at the floor. "I know......I can feel what they feel like against my own skin, my own flesh."

"Have you ever tried talking to your doctors, Jon?"

He looked up, surprised. "Huh? What? What about? What do you mean? They can't fix my arms, you know that."

"They can't 'fix' your arms......but doctors today worry about more than just a patient's physical well-being. They also are concerned with emotional well-being, as well. Concerned with their patients being human, having human feelings and needs......and urges. If the problem is the metal of your arms, then perhaps they can fit you with some kind of padding for them. Rubber, plastic, some kind of sleeve, that would cover the metal. Allow you to hold someone, and it be comforting instead of painful."

"They wouldn't look real.....they'd look....freaky." He grimaced.

"I'm not talking about trying to make them look like normal arms, Jon, just about making it comfortable for you to hold someone. Have you asked them?"

"No." He hung his head.

"You might consider asking. You never know....maybe one of them might come up with some ideas for you."

He was silent for a long time.

"Jon.....who is Karina?"

The silence drug on even longer.

"Just...a girl," he finally said. "Nobody special. Just a girl on a pickup team."

"She was special to you."

"I wasn't special to her."

"Go on."

He sighed. "She was beautiful. And she had metal claws, just like mine. But that's all. She had a normal body, normal arms and hands. And she was so beautiful. I thought....for a second....that because we both had claws, maybe we had something in common. I tried to talk to her. But she wouldn't talk to me." He looked up, his one eye watering. "She wouldn't even look at me. I was too ugly." He looked back down at the floor.

"I see."

"If I still looked like that drawing.....I bet she would have looked at me."

"Perhaps. And perhaps not. Jon, you said it yourself, the claws gave you something in common. If you still looked like that drawing, you wouldn't have the claws either, is that so?"

He didn't answer.

"Perhaps she would have looked at you....but it's much more likely that you would never have met, since you met her on a pickup team. You wouldn't have been on that team, or any other, since you didn't naturally have any powers."

He couldn't think of a reply.

"You were a very handsome man, Jon. You have lost something important. But you were also ordinary. Ordinary is good. Ordinary people live ordinary lives. But now you are extraordinary. And extraordinary people live extraordinary lives."

He pondered for a long moment.

"Lin....have *you* ever been in love?"

She smiled. "Yes."

"So? Why are you alone? You're beautiful."

She laughed. "You've never wondered about that before, have you?"

He shook his head solemnly. "I guess it just never occured to me. You always seem to be so busy with Starfire business, I guess I just assumed you never had the time." He looked up. "So?"

"Jon.....there is more than one kind of aloneness. Stray is alone because she's a Kheldian, a half-alien. You are alone because your outer appearance is unusual. I am alone....for other reasons, reasons that I cannot change, any more than either of you can."

"What about the guy you love? Or loved. I guess it was a guy...."

She laughed merrily, then sobered. She smiled sadly. "I'm going to tell you a story.

"Jon, how old do you think I am?"

"Oh, about my age, I guess, maybe a little younger. I mean, you look much younger, feel more....mature, or something, I'm not sure what it is."

"Jon, I don't know how old I am. But I do know that I am several thousand years old, at least."

He looked up, his eye wide, his mouth dropped open in astonishment.

The blonde woman reached up, pulled back her hair at the side of her face, revealing a pointed ear, then dropped her hand again.

"I don't remember my own childhood, Jon. I know that there are very few of my people left alive on Earth. I don't remember what happened to them, but I think that most of them went....somewhere else."

He stared at her, closed his mouth.

"It's...awkward, you see. I have loved many times through the centuries....and most of them are dead, now, I outlived them all."

"......and the last one?"

She dropped her eyes. It was her turn to stare at the floor. "He couldn't cope. He couldn't accept the age difference. I think he cared about me a great deal, more than he was willing to admit. But in the end, he stopped talking to me. When I saw him, we might team for a few minutes, and then he would make an excuse, and leave the team."

"....Lin....I'm sorry." He thought. "Do you still love him?"

"The last time I saw him....yes, it was the same. It hurt. A lot. I can't help wondering if it didn't hurt him as much. He knows how to contact me.....and I made it clear that he was welcome to do so.....but he never does. He always seems happy to see me, at first, and then he runs away."

He stared at her. "Do you think you'll ever love anyone else again?" he asked softly.

"I hope so, Jon. I truly hope so."


Copyright, November 26, 2012