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Thunder over Smallville: Book One

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Thunder over Smallville". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Sequel to An Echo of Thunder and Story #2 in the Thunder over Smallville series. Xander Harris arrives in Smallville to start his new life. How will the presence of a Thunder God affect life in this not-so-sleepy Kansas town?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Smallville > Xander-Centered
DC Universe > General
anotherlostsoulFR1551240,4331641315659,28814 Nov 0615 Feb 08No

Chapter 11 -- Aftermath

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 Note: Happy New Year everyone. The Holidays have been busier than expected for me, so I'm currently way behind on my writing. I'll do my best to get back on schedule as soon as possible though. In the meantime, enjoy!

-== Chapter Eleven – Aftermath ==-

Lindsey McDonald stared for a long while at the gaping hole that now decorated the outer wall of the Metropolis Wolfram and Hart building. For the first time since Holland Manners had sent him to Sunnydale, he truly understood just how dangerous the Old Gods really were. Even the most powerful mortal sorcerers, human or otherwise, couldn’t have breached the building’s mystical defenses as Xander had. It was the second time in one day that the boy had done what was thought to be impossible. If Lindsey hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he never would have believed a mere teenager, god-ling or no, could have successfully, violently invaded a Wolfram and Hart office and lived to tell about it. Clearly, Alexander Harris was far too serious a threat to be allowed to live.

He pushed his musings aside and turned his thoughts to the much more immediate concern: surviving this mess. In a situation like this one, it would be all too easy to become a scapegoat for what had happened and at Wolfram and Hart, scapegoats were sacrificial animals. He tried to focus on the matter at hand, mentally scrambling for some sort of plan for how to deal with Harris…some way not to join Joe Morgan on tonight’s casualty list. There had to be some way to strike at the boy without it being connected to the firm.

“You can stop worrying, Lindsey,” he heard Mr. Newman say flatly. “This is just one more thing that the Senior Partners will deal with Joe about. He of all people should have recognized the signs.”

Now Lindsey really was surprised. The branch CEO was essentially giving him a get-out-of-messy-death free card on the entire debacle. Normally such a thing would be unheard of, which led him to immediately question it. “What signs, sir?” he asked respectfully.

“Harris isn’t a champion,” the older man stated bluntly. “If Joe had recognized the signs, he would have been able to prevent this entire situation from deteriorating so badly.”

“If he’s not a champion, then what is he, Mr. Newman?” the younger attorney asked, baffled by the statement.

“He’s something far more dangerous and unpredictable,” the CEO replied cryptically. “He’s a warrior and one that answers only to his own heart. I have no doubt that he is fully willing and perfectly able to carry out his threats.”

“Surely he’s just bluffing!” Lindsey argued. “God or not, he’s just one person! There’s no way he could back up these threats!”

“There was a group of our agents in ancient Rome,” Geoffrey said simply. “A kind of precursor to what would one day become the firm; they were a secret society of most powerful players for the forces of evil on the planet. They angered a Greek demigod with one of their plots… a warrior named Herakles.”

“Hercules?” Lindsey asked, confused by the sudden turn in the conversation.

“That was his Latin name, yes,” the man confirmed with a nod. “The order of the Wolf, Ram and Hart was every bit as untouchable as we like to think we are, Lindsey. Herakles slew them to the very last man and destroyed the entire Roman Empire in the process. It took centuries, but he did it and he was only a demigod. His interference set our plans back more than a thousand years, forcing us to rebuild our power base from scratch. Do you want to be the one responsible for another set back of that magnitude?” Mr. Newman’s face was unreadable as he challenged his subordinate. “I can assure you, those responsible for the decisions leading to the last one are still suffering in a Hell beyond your darkest imaginings.”

Lindsey swallowed hard. Wolfram and Hart CEO’s didn’t repeat object lessons like that one without very good cause. “How do we approach the situation then?” he asked calmly.

“We watch and wait,” Newman replied. “Right now, he doesn’t pose a significant threat to our operations unless we provoke him… let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.” He looked thoughtful for a few moments. “In the meantime, track down Loki’s other children. They might prove useful against Harris if it comes to that.”

“Yes sir,” Lindsey agreed with a nod.

* * * * *

“I’ve just lost too many people who were important to me to let anymore be taken away,” Xander’s words were like a slap in Clark’s face, reminding him what was really at stake here. Were hollow, moralistic ideals worth losing the lives of the people near and dear to him?

No, Clark decided instantly, they weren’t.

Clark stared at his cousin before nodding. He finally realized, finally really understood, what Xander was saying. “I know things have been hard, Xan,” he said sympathetically. “But you aren’t in this alone, not anymore. I can help.”

“How Clark?” the Aesir asked. “You don’t know how to fight and there are no guarantees that you can even hurt the next monster they send. You’re lucky you didn’t get a lot more hurt than scraped knuckles and burns earlier.”

“You can teach me to fight, Xander,” the younger teen countered. “And just because I can’t hurt or kill a demon doesn’t mean I can’t help…Besides, you were fighting these things even before you got your powers, so they can’t all be as indestructible as the ones we faced today.”

Xander looked Clark in the eye, expecting to see reluctant resignation there. He honestly believed that his cousin was only making this offer out of a misguided sense of familial obligation. Instead, he saw only a fierce determination. It was a look he was quite he knew his own eyes often shone with… a burning desire to do the right thing no matter the cost. Whether he helped Clark learn to fight or not, the younger boy wasn’t going to sit idly by and stay safe. “Your dad is going to hate this you know?” the Thunder God said bluntly, wanting to make sure Clark had really thought it through. “I doubt he’s going to just agree to letting you learn how to fight. Not to mention that I’m barely that much better off than you are.”

“I’ll convince him,” Clark declared. “It won’t be nearly as hard as you think after what happened today.”

The Aesir nodded dubiously. “Okay, if you get him to agree, I’ll teach you what I can and we’ll see how things develop from there. Assuming that I still have a place to live after your mom and dad hear about what I did tonight.”

The youngest Kent smiled gently. “I wouldn’t worry about that, Xan. Mom and dad might get upset, but they won’t send you away. Just make sure you explain why you did it. If anyone understands trying to protect his family, it’s dad.”

“So, you want a lift back to Smallville? I’m pretty sure I can fly it faster than you can run it… even carrying you.” Xander’s nod of agreement was a bit more confident this time.

“No thanks,” Clark said, blanching visibly at the idea. “I’ll keep my feet firmly on the ground.”

“You don’t trust me?” Xander asked sounding slightly hurt by the refusal.

“It’s not that…” the teen countered. “I’m scared of heights,” he admitted sheepishly. “And when did you learn to fly anyway?”

“Actually, I learned in the barn earlier. Flying, as it turns out, is pretty easy…though it did take some work to figure out how to get here. Navigating at altitude is a lot harder than you might think. How long did it take you to run all the way here anyway?”

“A few minutes,” Clark admitted cheerfully. “I’d have been here sooner, but Chloe showed up as you were leaving. If she’d been a minute earlier, she’d have seen you fly off.” Clark’s smile vanished and his voice tensed as he brought up his friend’s name, “And did you really tell her it was okay for her to look into Sunnydale?” When Xander nodded calmly, the younger boy launched into another diatribe, “What were you thinking?” he demanded. “Are you planning to tell the whole world about your secrets?”

“I didn’t realize that Chloe was the whole world,” Xander replied blandly. “And yes, I was planning on sharing the truth about Sunnydale with her, if it seemed like she could believe it.”

“Xander, Chloe is a reporter! She’d do anything to get a story published with a major paper like the Daily Planet!” Clark exclaimed, thinking that Xander clearly hadn’t considered the implications of what he was doing. “What on Earth makes you think that you could trust her with a secret that big?”

“What makes you think I can’t?” the Aesir shot back. “Come on, Clark, she’s your friend. Has she ever given you a good reason to think she wouldn’t keep your secrets if you opened up to her?”

“Well, no, but I’ve never asked her to keep a secret that could make her career before she even got out of high school either,” his cousin shot back.

“Clark!” Xander exclaimed. “Listen to what you’re saying for a minute and then really think about it. It’s not like she could exactly publish the truth about Sunnydale in a mainstream newspaper. She’d be laughed out the editor’s office if she even tried. I’m not planning to tell her everything, but even if I did, I don’t think she’d betray that trust.” He looked his cousin in the eye. “You have to learn to have a little faith, Clark, or you’re going to live a very lonely life.”

“Are you really willing risk being wrong?” Clark shot back. “Willing to risk having what you are, what you can do exposed to the whole world?”

“Yeah,” the Thunder God replied without hesitation. “I would be. If Chloe and I get to that point in our friendship, the point where we start sharing secrets with each, I won’t hesitate to tell her my secrets.”

“So you’ll just tell her about everything? Does that include me?” the other boy asked in a taut, angry voice.

“I said I’d tell her my secrets,” Xander said coolly, resisting the urge to knock some sense into his cousin’s obviously thick skull. “Your secret isn’t mine to tell. I wouldn’t betray that and I’m a little upset you’d even think I would do something like that.”

Clark stopped dead, his anger draining away quickly. “I’m sorry, Xan. I’ve just…”

“I know, Clark, alright. I get how important keeping your abilities a secret is to you,” the older boy interrupted, his annoyed anger seeping into his voice. “And I’ll die before I tell anyone about you…but don’t tell expect to tell me who I can and can’t trust with my secrets, cause it’s not your choice.”

A strained silence fell between the two boys as they stood facing one another on the streets of Metropolis. Finally, after several long moments, Clark nodded. “You’re right, it’s not my choice to make, it’s yours, but I think telling Chloe would be a mistake.”

“And you might be right,” Xander admitted. “I don’t know Chloe that well yet, I may or may not ever feel like I can trust her with all of my secrets. But when the time comes, it’s my mistake to make and I’m the one who’ll have to live with the consequences.”

Clark frowned but nodded his acceptance. Whether Clark liked it or not, his cousin was right, Xander was the only person with the right to make those decisions. Of course, if Xander revealed his powers to Chloe, it would only make it that much more difficult for Clark to keep lying and hiding his own abilities from her. “Just, promise me one thing…you’ll talk to me about it before you tell her. At least give me a chance to try and talk you out of it?”

The Aesir grinned, “Alright. Provided that I don’t screw up and accidentally let the cat out of the bag the way I did with you, I’ll talk to you about it first.” Then something occurred to him, “So what did Chloe want anyway?”

“She’s pretty much figured out the truth about Sunnydale, thanks to the hints you gave her,” the younger teen replied simply. “Hellmouth, demons, vampires… the whole thing.”

“She figured it out?” the Thunder God’s jaw dropped open. “Since this morning?” He couldn’t have been more surprised, he’d expected it would take days for her to put the pieces together, not mere hours.

“Chloe can be pretty intense when she’s working on mystery,” Clark responded, chuckling at his cousin’s thunder-struck expression. Suddenly, an idea sprang to mind. “Race you back to the farm?” he offered, blurring away before the still stunned boy could reply. He figured he needed a head start if he was going to have a chance of beating Xander.

* * * * *

Lionel Luthor stared across the expanse of open air that separated his office from the imposing form of the Wolfram and Hart building. Once more his eyes drifted to the gaping wound in the face of the structure where a plate glass window had once been as he contemplated what he had seen. He’d been considering the options he had for dealing with his son, Lex, after this latest humiliating spectacle he’d made of himself, when he’d seen it. A brilliant flash of light, or more precisely lightning, had blasted the large window, utterly disintegrating it. That same flash had illuminated the silhouette of a man floating midair outside of the law office. The figure had then flown through the whole it had apparently created and into the other building.

Unfortunately, at this distance and under these lighting conditions Lionel hadn’t been able to make out much detail. However, since that same figure had left, apparently unharmed, a short time later it had clearly been powerful. Wolfram and Hart didn’t suffer such base intrusions lightly, so who-, or what-, ever had invaded them presented an intriguing unknown quantity. Anyone that could survive such a blatant, violent defiance of such an organization could easily be a powerful ally or a very dangerous enemy, either of which bore very careful investigation.

Turning away from the window, the billionaire pressed the intercom button on his desk phone. “Yes, Mr. Luthor?” came the immediate reply from one of his more dutiful sycophants, a personal assistant with delusions of grandeur. The man was under the intentionally misguided impression that he was being groomed to eventually be Lionel’s right hand at LuthorCorp, despite the fact that he lacked any real potential. It was a notion that Lionel had planted with vague promises and open-ended assurances. The simple deception bred loyalty, something he found highly desirable in his lackeys. By the time this particularly unimaginative toady realized he was going nowhere, he’d have served his purpose and would have no further value.

“Dominic,” Lionel ordered crisply, “arrange a meeting with Mr. Payne, I have a job that will require his…unique talents. And send Lex in when he arrives.” He cut the intercom off without waiting for confirmation. What Dominic lacked in imagination and creativity he more than made up for in blind obedience. He was a useful tool when blunt, brute force was required.

The senior Luthor smiled darkly as he turned to face the Wolfram and Hart building once more. That law firm was one of the most powerful organizations on Earth and they had made two clumsy attempts to leverage him into becoming one of their clients in the recent past. So far, with the help of individuals like Mr. Payne, Lionel had managed to stay a few steps ahead of them, but it was only a matter of time before they offered him something he couldn’t refuse.

Unlike many of his competitors down through the years, Lionel knew a great deal about what went bump in the night and, by extension, about who Wolfram and Hart really worked for. After all, one didn’t grow up in the suicide slums of Metropolis without either knowing the truth or being very, very lucky. Lionel Luthor never left anything to luck. He and his childhood friend, if you could call Morgan Edge anyone’s friend, had had more than a few run-ins with the otherworldly elements that made up the bulk of Wolfram and Hart’s client roster during the early years of their respective rises to power.

He’d personally done a great many unconscionable things during his journey from pauper to prince, but he’d never made a deal with that particular devil. Not out of any sense of morality or anything quite as mundane as that, he just refused to deal on their terms. He’d seen far too may of his competitors lose their edge after dealing with Wolfram and Hart. In the end they’d all become incredibly successful lap-dogs, spending their time jumping through other people’s hoops. Lionel Luthor was no one’s lap-dog. When he finally made a deal with Wolfram and Hart, it would be on his terms and that meant finding some leverage, something that could give him the advantage when it came time to negotiate…

His contemplation was interrupted by a low beep from his phone. Turning back to it again, he keyed the intercom once more. “What is it, Dominic?” he asked sharply.

“Dr. Walsh is calling for you on line one and security called, Lex is on his way up now,” the man replied evenly.

“Put her through,” he ordered, tapping the button to kill the intercom again and grinning as his headset picked up.

“Dr. Walsh,” he greeted warmly, knowing he could afford to pretend civility with the woman who was about to become one of LuthorCorp’s more valuable research assets. “What can I do for you?” He smiled broadly as the woman began the expected series of protests about the latest round of budget cuts in her project. For a ground breaking researcher, Maggie Walsh was extremely predictable. It was almost pathetic how easy manipulating her had turned out to be.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Walsh, but the company simply couldn’t afford to continue funding your project at its previous level with no potential for near term returns,” he lied smoothly, waiting for the anticipated response. “Yes, I was aware that the Pentagon was recomissioning their research initiative in this area, but they intend to keep it entirely internal to the military.” He couldn’t resist smiling as the scientifically brilliant, but naïve woman took the bait.

“Certainly,” he answered. “LuthorCorp would be sad to see you go, but we could release you from your contract to head up that effort. Of course, all of the work you’ve done for the past seven years would remain property of LuthorCorp.” He knew he had her now, “I’m sure that we could reach a mutually beneficial licensing agreement, however, once you’ve taken over. We could even continue to supply the project with the meteor ore that your process requires…” He listened closely as she agreed to the plan in principal.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d known who the shortlist candidates to head up the revamped Demon Research Initiative were six-months ago. Nor did it hurt that he had three of the five scientists in question on LuthorCorp’s payroll, especially since discrediting the other two had been child’s play. As it stood, there’d be no problems landing significant amounts in government contracts or in gaining access to the research now that Dr. Walsh was going to head up the project for the military. He was getting all the rewards of a potentially lucrative research venture with none of the risks, it was a perfect opportunity.

“Of course, Dr. Walsh, and I look forward to hearing from you again,” he replied genuinely before disconnecting the call.

In a rare display of perfect timing, the door to his office opened at almost that precise moment to disgorge his son. “Ah, Lex,” Lionel greeted his son the way he would any disgruntled executive employee, with a cool, detached tone. “Please have a seat.” The lord and master of the LuthorCorp Empire was completely unsurprised when his son poured himself a drink before sitting down.

“What can I do for you, dad?” the general disdain and slight emphasis in the younger Luthor’s voice was expected. It carried as much weight in their perpetual verbal sparring as assuming a ready stance when fencing…it was nothing more or less than an invitation.

Lionel stared at his only son and heir apparent to the business he’d so carefully built. Lex had been a continual disappointment. He appeared weak, lazy, arrogant and generally contemptible to the untrained eye. Most fathers would have written him off as entirely worthless long before now, but Lionel knew better. What people saw about his son was a façade, an affectation carefully crafted over more than a decade of rebellion with the singular purpose of angering his father. Underneath it all, Lex was intelligent, ruthless, ambitious and, when necessary, downright vicious. In short, he was everything a Luthor should be…not that Lionel would ever tell Lex that. Now it was simply time to force him to drop the façade.

“I’m tired of cleaning up your messes, Lex,” he began without preamble. “That debacle at Club Zero was the last straw.”

Lex stared at his father with an arrogant smirk on his face. Whatever game he meant to play, he clearly expected to win, “So what’s it going to be this time? More empty threats?”

“I’m sending you to Smallville, Lex,” the senior Luthor answered with a smile of his own. “You’ll be taking over management of our operations there.”

“Ah, so it’s exile then? Banishment to the hinterlands of your corporate fiefdom, where I might be less of an embarrassment?” The young man’s sarcasm dripped from every word. “And I guess I’m supposed to be grateful for that?”

“Stop being so melodramatic,” Lionel countered. “You can save the tormented martyr routine for the tabloids. Just think of this as a test of your abilities, a chance to prove you aren’t entirely useless.”

“And what makes you think I’ll go?” Lex asked defiantly.

“You start in two weeks,” his father replied bluntly. “If you choose not to go, you’ll be in breach of your contract with LuthorCorp and you’ll lose everything. I’ll leave you penniless on the streets.”

The two men locked gazes, each trying to force the other to turn away first by sheer strength of will alone. If looks could kill, both men would be in need of coroners at this point. Any outsider that observed the confrontation might have believed it the precursor to a knock-down, drag out fight, not a rebellious son being cowed by a domineering father. The battle of wills stretched on for several minutes before Lex finally faltered and turned away, causing a tight smile to slide over his father’s face.

“Dominic has all the materials you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the Smallville plant,” Lionel said smugly, knowing he’d won. “Don’t disappoint me, Lex; I’m not in the habit of giving second chances.”

* * * * *

Xander landed lightly on the grassy lawn that surrounded the farm house. It had actually taken him far longer to find a secluded area where he could return Mjolnir to full-size unnoticed than it had to fly the distance between Metropolis and Smallville. He stared at the kitchen door with an uncomfortable sense of dread. The young Aesir had no doubt that his aunt and uncle would be furious over what he had done once he told them about it. Despite Clark’s reassurances, Xander fully expected to be cast out of the Kent home forever.

He tore his eyes away from the door to look down at the war hammer in his hand. It slowly shrank down, reverting to the necklace form that it so commonly held. As the small, medallion sized weapon lay there in his hand he couldn’t help but marvel at how something so powerful could be so small. It was such a tiny thing to have so radically changed the course of his life. He smiled and slipped the chain over his head before looking back up to the house through the deepening darkness as twilight slipped into night.

A familiar voice spoke from the gathering blackness, “You know, I think Herakles had it easier. His fabled twelve labors were spread out at least…your trials seem to have all piled into a matter of hours.” Hermes walked over to join Xander in staring at the house.

“I can’t say I expected to see you again so soon,” the Thunder God said in a neutral tone.

The Messenger shrugged. “You’ll probably see more of me then you might think over the next few months. Unless you surprise us all and figure out how to get to Olympus,” the other God smirked. “Kudos on learning to fly though, none of us thought you’d figure that out so easily.”

“People are always underestimating me,” the Aesir replied with an unhappy shrug.

“It comes with the territory, besides, being underestimated is a good thing,” the Olympian replied. “It makes it easy to impress people and it’s a big mistake on behalf of your enemies. Just remember to never interrupt your enemies when they’re making a mistake.”

That made Xander chuckle. “So why are you here, Hermes? I kind of doubt it’s a social call…”

“I have a message for you, of course,” he replied. “Neither Ares nor Athena were particularly impressed with your fighting abilities earlier…and don’t even get me started on what they thought of Clark’s skill. You definitely need to hone your skills and Clark needs serious training.”

“There’s a problem there you know,” the teen pointed out. “We can’t exactly train with just anyone. One bad punch and normal human is toast.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it, we’ve got that covered,” Hermes said with a smile. “We’re bringing in a specialist, so to speak, someone who can train you both.”

“Another Olympian?” Xander asked, surprised. “Or another Valkyrie?”

“Neither actually,” the Messenger replied. “She’s a demigoddess. We aren’t entirely sure when she’ll get here, but sometime in the next few months most likely. They’re working on the details now.”

“They who?” the Thunder God asked curiously.

“Athena and Artemis mostly. They vetoed all of Ares’ suggestions,” the Olympian replied with a grin. “Of course, that’s because his ideas would have defeated the whole idea of secrecy.”

“Great,” he said with a decidedly negative tone, “More secrets, just what Clark and I need. Plus there’s the whole thing where I’m about to get thrown out anyway.

“No, you’re not,” the other God countered. “The Kents are not like your mom and dad were, Xander. They might get upset, but you’ll always have a place with them.” Hermes turned and looked toward the road. “And the secrets thing is a little unavoidable. It, too, goes with the territory.”

Xander turned to see where Hermes was staring just as a sudden whoosh of air announced Clark’s arrival. The Aesir shot a quick glance at where the Messenger had been only to find the Olympian had vanished, confirming Xander’s theory that his divine relatives couldn’t, or wouldn’t, appear around mortals. He gave his mortal cousin a half-grin, “What took you so long, Clark?”

Clark just shook his head with a grin of his own, rather than answering. “You been here long?” he asked.

“Few minutes,” the older teen replied. “Took longer to find a place to take off discreetly than to actually fly home.” He stared into the kitchen through the warmly lit windows. His aunt was working at either cooking dinner or possibly cleaning up after having cooked. He couldn’t really tell which. He could see his uncle sitting at the table-like island as well. Looks of concern and worry lined both of their faces.

Noticing the dark look on his cousin’s face, Clark asked, “What’s wrong, Xan?”

“What’s right?” the Aesir countered bitterly. “I never wanted any of this, Clark. I never wanted to have to play the hero, or to put the people I love in danger just by being around,” he frowned, trying to shove his negative thoughts aside. “Maybe I should just leave. Go away some place where the weirdness of my life can’t affect my friends and family.”

“Leaving won’t change what happened,” Clark pointed out calmly. “And if you aren’t around, what’s to keep Wolfram and Hart from ignoring your ultimatum and going after you through us?”

The teen’s words, and the stir of rage that the very idea spawned in him, burned away Xander’s doubts. Clark was right…leaving didn’t take away the danger. This way he could at least be here to protect them. If the price of their safety was the occasional uncomfortable argument over how he went about defending them from things…well, he’d manage.

“Besides, contrary to what you might think, they’re worried about what might have happened to us, what we might have done. Not more attacks,” the other boy continued, clapping his hand down on Xander’s shoulder reassuringly.

“You a mind-reader too now?” the older teen asked with a grin.

“Nope, I just know my mom and dad,” he replied with a grin of his own.

Xander glanced around, looking for anything that might delay facing the coming conversation. His eyes fell on the darker patches of ground where the demons had died earlier. “Hey Clark, you said Chloe was here earlier right?”

“Yeah, why?” his cousin answered.

“Shouldn’t you have covered up the stains left from killing those demons?” the Aesir asked.

Clark looked at them in a mild state of surprise. How on Earth did he forget that? “Well…she didn’t seem to notice them. Or didn’t say anything if she did…” he offered reluctantly.

“Ten bucks says she noticed and just didn’t ask about them,” Xander offered with a sly grin.

There was no way he was going to take that bet. “What do you think we should tell her when she asks?” he questioned.

“Tell her the truth,” Xander replied with a shrug. “We killed a few demons, no big deal. She doesn’t necessarily need the details.” He noticed the shocked look on Clark’s face. “Clark, you can keep your secret without lying about everything. Sometimes a little truth will go a long way.” He grimaced, recalling the aftermath of his hyena possession. “Of course, sometimes lying is the best option too…but I try to save it for when I really don’t have a choice.”

“You’re really set on telling Chloe the truth about Sunnydale?” Clark asked resignedly.

“She’s already figured it out for herself, so why not?” the Thunder God answered with a grin. “Besides, it’ll be nice to have a little help if we need to research something weird.”

“Research?” the younger teen asked.

“Yep,” Xander replied. “Research.” Seeing Clark’s uncomprehending look, he expounded on his answer. “Sometimes figuring out how to stop the monsters requires you to figure out what they want and how they mean to get it. So, research.”

“There’s a lot more to hunting monsters than just fighting, isn’t there?” Clark asked quietly.

“Yeah, there is, but hopefully we won’t have to do it very often around here,” the Aesir said, genuinely hoping it was the truth.
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