Chapter 10 – Lessons Learned
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize it, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
Author's Notes: Happy Holidays everyone! Updates will resume after the New Year. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations and enjoy the new chapter.
-== Chapter Ten – Lessons Learned ==-
Once inside the barn, Xander went directly to the loft. He hadn’t, however, actually come out here to talk to anyone. He came out here because he had a plan, one that his aunt and uncle would never have approved of. There was only one way to keep the Kents safe from the likes of Wolfram and Hart. He had to make it abundantly clear that there was a price to be paid for threatening what Xander held dear. The problem was that meant he needed a way to get to Metropolis, which was a three hour drive each way. It was further complicated by his lack of either a car or a driver’s license. To any ordinary teenage boy, it would have been an insurmountable obstacle…luckily he was not an ordinary teenage boy.
Xander willed Mjolnir to his hand and smiled as the full powers of the hammer filled him. He wasn’t disappointed when along with the power a remarkable feeling of lightness began to build. He could still feel the forces of gravity holding him down, but it seemed different, somehow weaker than normal. When he’d first experienced it earlier in the day, he’d assumed that it was merely a side-effect of Mjolnir boosting his strength, now he hoped it was something else. The Valkyrie Yve had once told him that the hammer would allow him access to aspects of his power before they would develop normally… If she was right, then he had the power to do this, he just wasn’t entirely sure how to accomplish it.
For one insane moment, a memory of watching Walt Disney’s Peter Pan with Clark during his first visit to Smallville flashed through his mind. Somehow, he doubted that flying was going to be as easy as thinking a happy thought. Taking a deep breath, he climbed up onto the wooden railing that surrounded the edge of the loft.
“This is crazy,” he muttered, staring at the ground below him. “Human beings can’t fly.” The moment the words passed his lips, the feeling of near weightlessness vanished. The railing creaked dangerously and sagged under the sudden combination of his weight and that of the hammer, threatening to spill him to the ground below. “Shit!” he shouted, struggling to keep his balance. He flailed his arms and managed to regain his balance…just as the wood broke beneath his feet, sending him plummeting toward the barn floor under gravity’s renewed influence.
Everything seemed to slow down momentarily, the way it so often does in moments of crisis. His brain shifted into overdrive, looking for a way to stop his descent. As the world exploded back to full speed around him and the ground rushed up to meet him, he suddenly recalled something from one of Giles’ books on magickal theory. “Belief is the key,” the dusty old tome had stated simply. “Magick cannot be worked if the practitioner does not believe they can do it.”
In his mind, he saw Yve rising effortlessly over the junkyard fence in Sunnydale and later flying into battle against the Fire Giant. He remembered watching Hermes defy gravity by setting the box that had held his gauntlets on nothing at all. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, he was no mere human. He was one of the Aesir, the God of Thunder, and gravity could only hold sway over him if he permitted it to.
Even as the realization blossomed in his mind, he felt the pull of gravity recede again, quickly fading to nothing at all. He shifted his position as the momentum he’d picked up in his fall quickly bled off. Xander settled gently on to the ground, feet first, with no more force than if he’d stepped off the bottom stair at a leisurely pace. A wide grin spread over his face. He looked back up to the loft he’d fallen from and willed himself into motion, imagining his body rising gently from the ground in a slow, graceful arc the way Yve had once shown him. Instantly, he slid through the air to rest weightlessly on the floor of the loft.
It was an amazing feeling, like nothing that Xander had ever experienced before. He turned and looked at the barn door, willing himself there, only faster this time. Wind rushed past his ears and the world blurred around him as his crossed the space between the two points faster than the eye could follow. He had moved through the air as quickly as Clark could run, if not even quicker. He spent several minutes flitting between different points in the barn with the speed and accuracy of a hummingbird, and growing more and more confident in his newfound ability.
Finally, he gripped Mjolnir tightly, stepped out of the barn and looked up into the early evening sky. The sun was setting slowly, as it was wont to do at this late point in the summer season. The skies were clear and calm above him, not that it would have mattered. The weather was perfect for flying.
“Xander!” he heard his cousin’s voice call from nearby as Clark jogged over at normal, human speeds holding a basketball. “Is everything okay? You weren’t in there very long…”
“Everything’s going to be fine, Clark,” the Aesir replied with a wide smile. “I have to go to Metropolis and resolve a few things, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Before the younger boy could reply, Xander flexed his legs and exploded into the air. In the barest blink of an eye, he rocketed upward tens of thousands of feet. The thin air and deep chill of the upper atmosphere didn’t bother him in the least. As he hovered for a long moment, staring down at the ground that was so far beneath him, he felt tiny and insignificant. He was completely detached from the world below him and yet, for the first time, he truly knew what he really was.
He couldn’t help smiling…right up until the moment it hit him. He didn’t have the vaguest idea how to navigate at this altitude and find his intended destination. He wasn’t even entirely sure if he had come straight up or at an angle…or if he was moving along with earth’s rotation or had stopped completely. If he’d stopped, then Smallville most certainly wasn’t actually beneath him anymore…
‘Damn it,’ he thought with a frown. ‘Now what do I do?’
* * * * *
Clark watched awestruck as Xander blurred into the air, quickly disappearing from view. Apparently his cousin had forgotten to mention that he had learned to fly somewhere between Sunnydale and Smallville. The mere thought of being so high up, turned Clark’s knees to jelly as he stared after the blur of motion.
As he tore his eyes away from the slowly darkening skies and turned to head into the house and let his parents know what had happened, he heard a car turn onto the driveway. He glanced back to see who it was just in time to see Chloe’s car lurch disconcertingly as the wheel started to drop deep into the large, Clark-shaped hole in the ground left by the battle against the demons earlier. Realizing that it would be almost impossible to explain away believably, Clark exploded into action. He blurred into the barn and grabbed a shovel. Moving as quickly as he could, he raced back and forth filling the hole in to the point where it would be fairly inconspicuous without leaving any disturbed ground where Chloe might see it. Once he finished, he dropped the shovel in the barn and raced back to where he’d been standing, all before Chloe could have even noticed he moved.
As the petite blonde got out of the car, Clark put on his best, fake, happy-to-see-you smile. As usual, Chloe had the worst possible timing in coming out to the farm. “Chloe,” he said in slightly strained, yet cheerful tone. “What are you doing out here?”
“Hi Clark,” she said with a smile. “I’m actually looking for Xander, is he around?”
“Uh, no, he’s actually not,” he replied, resisting the urge to look up where Xander had flown off again. “He just took off for Metropolis. Some kind of business he had to take care of.”
Chloe frowned slightly. “Did it have anything to do with what was going on in Sunnydale?” she asked with a curious look.
Warning bells practically exploded in Clark’s head. “Chloe, have you been investigating Xander?” he demanded accusingly. He should have known that she would look into his cousin, but he’d hoped she would let it pass since Xander was part of Clark’s family. “My cousin’s been through enough over the past year without you dredging it all up again,” he began, his voice hard and angry.
“Clark, he knows about it already,” she interrupted before the boy could get too deeply involved in the lecture he was preparing to launch into. “And he was okay with it. I talked to him about it earlier today. He wouldn’t tell me what was going on in Sunnydale, but said he’d talk to me about my theory on it when I came up with one.”
Clark froze, shocked by the fact that Xander had essentially given the girl his blessing to dig up the truth about Sunnydale. Surely he didn’t mean to tell Chloe his secrets…did he? “And you think you’ve figured it out already?” he asked skeptically.
“I think I have a pretty good idea of what was going on,” she said with a smile. “Between the hints that Xander gave me and a little help from one of his friends in Sunnydale, it wasn’t too hard to put the pieces together. I’m still a little weirded out by it, but the evidence all adds up.”
“What does it all add up to?” he couldn’t quite keep the concern out of his voice as he spoke.
“Sunnydale is some kind of supernatural activity magnet called Hellmouth,” Chloe stated certainly. “Xander and his friends spent most of the last year trying to protect his town from things that most people don’t even believe really exist. They are genuine, card-carrying heroes, Clark.”
To his great surprise, Clark managed to keep his jaw from dropping open at her words. Chloe had just summed up the last year of Xander’s life in three sentences with perfect accuracy. “That’s a pretty far-fetched theory, Chloe,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to continue to sound skeptical. Instead, he managed only to sound surprised.
“I know it sounds crazy, Clark,” she said with a nod, “but it explains everything, including the fact that barbecue forks kill more people in Sunnydale every year than drunk driving. It also explains how come they’ve had the same mayor for almost a hundred years and he hasn’t aged a day.”
‘Crap,’ Clark thought, ‘I have no idea what Xander was thinking, but she definitely won’t back down now.’
“And Xander told you about that?” he asked cautiously.
“He told me to check into the town’s history, especially the mayors and the town’s original, Spanish name,” Chloe responded. “I already knew about the other weird things that were going on there.” When Clark’s shoulders slumped at her words, she realized something. “You know. He told you what was going on there already?” It wasn’t an accusation, exactly. It was more a statement of fact.
“He told me about it this afternoon,” Clark admitted with a sigh. There was no point denying it when it was so obvious that Xander intended to at least tell her about Sunnydale. “He just didn’t mention that he intended to tell you. Look Chloe, you can’t tell anyone about this…”
“Who would believe me anyway, Clark?” she asked angrily. “Besides, I would never betray Xander’s trust like that,” the hurt in her voice over how little Clark seemed to think of her was obvious, causing Clark to wince. “It was just nice that at least he was willing to open up to me…and he hasn’t even known me as long as you have.”
Clark frowned, wishing once more that he could open up to the girl the way Xander had as he watched her storm back to her car and leave. He wanted to be able to trust Chloe and Pete, he really did, but there was a difference between telling Chloe about Sunnydale and the Hellmouth and telling her about their powers. A very big difference, or at least that’s what Clark tried once again to tell himself. If only he could actually believe that, maybe this wouldn’t be so hard.
With a sigh, he watched his friend leave before going back inside to talk to his parents. They needed to know about Xander’s impromptu trip to the city at the very least. Clark wanted to talk to Xander before telling them about his revelations to Chloe. It just didn’t make sense to Clark that his cousin would trust someone he barely knew before he trusted family. He just hoped that Xander hadn’t done anything rash in Metropolis.
* * * * *
Once the initial surge of panic passed, which took a few moments, Xander began to consider the problem rationally. There had to be someway to get where he wanted to go, someway to figure out the landmarks or something. He looked around, searching for something he recognized, even at this distance. Unfortunately, central Kansas was not exactly rife with major landmarks and at this distance even small towns were as good as invisible.
‘I could go higher,’ he thought, considering his options. ‘Maybe from that angle I might recognize something…’ He raced upward to the edge of the atmosphere in a heartbeat. Suddenly he could see entire the entire continent and the expanse of oceans on either side. ‘Wow,’ he thought, stunned by the peaceful beauty he was observing. Suddenly something occurred to him. ‘The earth doesn’t appear to be moving… I must be moving along with it…which means Smallville is probably right beneath me!’
With a thought, he plunged back into the atmosphere, descending rapidly to a point where his presence should be undetectable from the ground while allowing him a closer look at his surroundings. Almost immediately he was able to make out an overhead, aerial view of a town that he was almost certain was Smallville.
Using the sun as a guide, the teen turned toward where Metropolis should be. He concentrated on keeping to a perfectly straight line while traveling as quickly as he could manage toward where he expected the city to be. Unfortunately, a little while later there was still no sign of Metropolis…and he was fairly sure there weren’t any major mountain ranges in this part of Kansas.
“Damn it!” he shouted, frustrated with the unexpected difficulties he was having. “Where the hell is Metropolis?” He closed his eyes and wondered how it was that he could get lost on what should have been such a quick flight. Clearly the people who wrote comic books with flying heroes severely underestimated the effort involved in going from point A to point B, very quickly and at high altitude. All he needed was to find one of the largest cities in Kansas, how did that suddenly turn into a Herculean trial?
As he pondered his predicament, he wondered if maybe he was overcomplicating this somehow… He was a God for crying out loud! Surely he could manage a simple task like this without the aid of a GPS navigation system…
* * * * *
Jonathan and Martha looked at their son expectantly as he came through the kitchen door. “Mom, dad,” the teen said in an agitated tone, “I think we have a problem.”
“What is it Clark?” his father asked immediately.
“Xander just took off for Metropolis,” he answered with a frown. “I think he may have been heading for the Wolfram and Hart office.”
“Metropolis is a long way off, how did he plan to get there?” Martha asked with a puzzled look.
“He flew, mom,” Clark said, mentally bracing himself for their reaction.
“Wait a second, Clark,” Jonathan said, clearly shocked by the revelation. “You mean Xander can fly?”
“Yeah,” the teen confirmed with a nod. “He just said that had some business to take care of in Metropolis, and then he shot straight up into the air faster than I could run and didn’t come back down. He could be all the way to Metropolis by now.”
Jonathan and Martha exchanged looks of shocked concern.
“What are we going to do?” the youngest Kent asked, unsettled by the silence coming from his parents.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do, son,” his father confessed a few moments later. “There’s no way that any of us could get to Metropolis fast enough to intervene. Are you positive he was going to the Wolfram and Hart building?”
“No,” Clark admitted, “but he’s still convinced that Wolfram and Hart were behind those demons attacking earlier, so where else would he be going?”
“Then all we can do is wait and hope that he doesn’t do anything that he’ll regret,” Martha said sadly.
“I think I could run to Metropolis,” the teen said simply. “As fast as I am, I could be there in a matter of minutes. Maybe even fast enough to help keep Xander out of trouble…”
“Clark, that’s almost 200 miles!” Jonathan argued. “You’ve never pushed your abilities like that before. What if someone saw you? Or your speed gave out halfway there?”
“Dad, I have to do something!” Clark countered loudly. “I can’t sit by and let Xander do this alone just because someone might find out about me!”
A long quiet moment passed as Jonathan and Martha exchanged another long look. It was as if an entire discussion passed silently between them. Or perhaps the discussion had happened sometime before and was merely remembered in that glance. “Okay, Clark,” his father conceded. “Go, help Xander. But be careful! There are things out there that aren’t going to be stopped your abilities, like those demons earlier.”
With a nod, Clark blurred off toward Metropolis, hoping that he would reach his cousin in time.
* * * * *
‘Okay,’ Xander thought as he hovered a few thousand feet above the peaks of what he believed to be the Rocky Mountains. ‘There has to be an easier way to get where I need to be.’
At this point, he wasn’t entirely sure he could find his way back to Smallville again, let alone anywhere else. Unfortunately, that really only left him with a couple of options, none of which were particularly appealing. Unless he was overlooking something obvious…
It suddenly occurred to Xander that he’d been approaching flying much the same way as walking or running. He was focusing on going a certain direction as quickly as he could without regard for the difference in how he was moving. Flying was an act of will. In the barn he hadn’t thought about moving from one point to another along a certain path, he’d merely willed himself to be where he wanted to be. Perhaps that was the problem.
He concentrated on getting to Metropolis, to the Wolfram and Hart building, rather than on moving any particular direction. Instantly, his body spun mid-air and began moving. A tight grin spread over his face as he willed himself to go faster, to get there as quickly as he could. The world blurred around him as accelerated to speeds that would make the fastest jets on earth envious.
Within minutes, the Aesir found himself floating some twenty stories above the darkening streets of Metropolis, staring through a surprisingly non-reflective window into the Wolfram and Hart building. Inside, Lindsey McDonald, another man, and what appeared to be a corpse sat at large conference table. Once Xander had started focusing on the destination rather than the journey, flying had been easy.
Thus far, his presence had been entirely unnoticed as the young God considered how he wanted to proceed. If he was going to get his point across without unnecessarily hurting or killing anyone, he needed a dramatic entrance. A demonstration of his powers was certainly in order, he decided.
Raising Mjolnir over his head, he called down a bolt of lightning to blast apart the windows that separated him from his adversaries and whipped the air into a frenzy around him. The glass window exploded inward in spray of molten shards and the whirling gusts of wind rushed in through the opening, scattering loose paper and keeping the window debris from seriously injuring anyone. As Xander entered the room, drifting with slow menace toward the men, a second arc of lighting struck the handle of the conference room door, fusing it into a useless lump of metal and effectively sealing the room.
As he let the winds die away, the two Wolfram and Hart employees eyed him cautiously. “Mr. Harris, I presume?” the older man, whom Xander didn’t recognize, asked after a minute. The slight catch in the man’s voice was the only outward indication he gave of just how nervous he really was.
“And you are?” the Aesir demanded, his voice cold as ice and hard as steel.
“Geoffrey Newman, CEO of Wolfram and Hart’s Metropolis office,” the man replied with a hint of a forced smile as he stood up and offered the teen his hand.
Xander regarded his hand with a look of disgust that clearly expressed his opinion of the man’s bravado. “Good,” the Thunder God growled out angrily. “Sit down, shut up, and listen carefully, because I will only warn you once.”
Paling slightly, the man wisely obeyed and Lindsey kept his mouth shut as well. “You made two very serious mistakes today, Mr. McDonald,” Xander said with an angry glare. “You threatened people I care about and then you tried to kill me and them.” He paused letting his words hang ominously in the air.
“Mr. Harris,” Lindsey started, seizing an opportunity to try and defuse what he saw as a potentially lethal situation. “I deeply regret what happened today…but I didn’t make those decisions. He did,” the lawyer pointed at the corpse of Joe Morgan, “and he’s already been made to pay for them.”
“I really don’t care, Mr. McDonald,” the Aesir spat. “I hold this entire firm responsible, from the lowliest janitor scrubbing your toilets all the way to your fabled Senior Partners in whatever Hell they rule. You get exactly one warning: if this firm or any of your clients come after my friends or family again, I will declare war on you all. I will destroy every branch of this firm I find and kill anyone who stands in my way. I won’t stop until I’ve slain the Wolf, Ram and Hart themselves, even if takes me a thousand years.” He completely ignored the CEO as he made his threat, staring fixedly at Lindsey. He smiled coldly as the lawyer swallowed nervously before turning his attention back to the other man.
“Have I made myself abundantly clear, Mr. Newman? Or should I demonstrate my resolve by razing this branch of your firm to the ground as an example?” Xander asked, narrowing his eyes dangerously.
“You’ve made yourself quite clear, Mr. Harris,” the visibly scared CEO conceded instantly. “I’m sure that the Senior Partners will honor the terms of your ultimatum. Your friends and family are off-limits as of this moment.”
Xander nodded sharply and strode back to the opening he’d created in the wall. He paused before stepping through, looking back over his shoulder at his enemies, “Unlike you, I do not bluff. Don’t test me on this.”
As he drifted out of the building and into the open air above the street, he glanced down. He frowned as he saw a blur of motion below him and suddenly Clark was standing there, staring up at him. In a blur of his own, Xander appeared next to the younger teen, willing his hammer back into being a medallion hanging around his neck as he went. As gravity took hold of him once more, he smiled at his cousin.
“Hey Clark!” he said happily.
* * * * *
Clark raced down the road from the farm toward Metropolis far faster than any car could have traveled. Mile markers flew past and he dodged around the vehicles that shared the road with him as easily as if they stood completely still. It was an exhilarating feeling to really stretch his legs and push himself for the first time in his life.
He couldn’t help but smile, despite the seriousness of the situation. Clark didn’t really think that Xander was capable of crossing the line and doing something he’d regret, but he wasn’t about to let him face that temptation alone. Especially not after everything that had happened today. Maybe it was selfish of him, but for the first time in his life he had someone who knew what it was like to be different… to have a secret. He wasn’t about to give that up without trying.
The teen pushed harder, moving even faster somehow. Unfortunately, despite his speed, it was going to be difficult if not impossible to catch up with his cousin. Xander just had too much of a head start. Clark had no doubt in his mind that the older boy could easily have destroyed the entire Wolfram and Hart building by now if that was what he intended.
It took Clark less than ten minutes to reach LuthorCorp plaza in Metropolis. Just across the street, opposite the massive Daily Planet building and LuthorCorp headquarters stood the Wolfram and Hart office. Clark stopped dead, looking up just in time to watch as someone floated momentarily in the open air a couple hundred feet above the street. In the blink of an eye, Xander was standing next to him on the concrete wearing a goofy grin… his hammer was no where to be seen.
“Hey Clark!” the Aesir said happily. “Did you run all the way from Smallville?”
Glancing around quickly to make sure no one was listening. The streets in the business district were mostly empty by this hour of the evening. The few pedestrians that were still out and about hadn’t even noticed the two boys’ abrupt appearances. “Yeah,” he answered quietly. “I didn’t want you to do anything you might regret later. What did you do, Xander?”
The other teen shrugged, still grinning. “Broke a window, made a big impression, and gave an ultimatum,” Xander replied casually. “They won’t be endangering the people I care about anymore if they know what’s good for them.”
“You can’t just threaten them like that, Xan!” Clark exclaimed.
“I didn’t have a choice, Clark,” the Thunder God said flatly, his smile evaporating. “I couldn’t take the chance of something happening if I could stop it. Besides, superior firepower and a demonstrated willingness to use it has been a perfectly valid peace-keeping tool for thousands of years. As long as they stay smart and don’t try anything, they’ll never have to find out if I was bluffing or not.”
Clark frowned, clearly unhappy with Xander’s somewhat cavalier seeming attitude. He knew that Xander had gone through a lot in the year since he staked his best friend, but he hadn’t realized just how far his cousin was willing to go to protect his friends and family. The younger boy had always been taught that there were just some lines you never ever crossed…Xander didn’t appear to accept that as being the case.
“We should get back to the farm,” he said finally. “Mom and dad were pretty worried when I told them you flew off.”
The Aesir studied Clark’s face for a moment. The younger boy clearly didn’t approve of what he’d done with Wolfram and Hart, but at least he didn’t seem inclined to lecture him about it. Of course, Xander had no doubt that a lecture from his uncle was the least he would get over this. “I’m sorry if I disappointed you Clark,” the older teen said sincerely. “But you have to know that I’m going to do whatever it takes to protect the people I love…no matter what that requires me to do. I’ve just lost too many people who were important to me to let anymore be taken away.”