Chapter 12 - Aftermath II
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: Thanks again to everyone who’s read and reviewed this story, the response and feedback that I’ve gotten are exactly what keeps me interested in writing fanfic. I seem to be mostly back on my regular update schedule, so without further ado, enjoy!
-== Chapter Twelve – Aftermath II ==-
Jonathan and Martha turned anxiously toward the door as they heard footfalls on their porch, waiting breathlessly to see if the boys had made it back safely. They sighed almost in unison to see Clark and Xander walk through the door looking none the worse for wear. The relieved smiles on both faces reminded Xander of just how much he wanted this to work…how much he wanted to be part of this family.
“Clark! Xander!” Jonathan called out, concern clear in his voice. “Are you boys alright?”
“We’re fine dad,” Clark answered with a nod. “I found Xander as he was leaving Wolfram and Hart.”
“Xander, what were you thinking going there like that?” Martha asked. “Do you have any idea how worried we were? What if it had been a trap?” Even as she scolded him, she hurried over and hugged the two boys tightly.
There was a slight hitch in Xander’s voice as he spoke, “I had to go Aunt Martha. I had to make sure they wouldn’t try to hurt any of you again. I had to protect you.” He smiled softly. “They won’t come after you anymore. Not after this evening.”
“What did you do?” His uncle veritably demanded, clearly afraid of what the answer would be.
“He did what he had to do, dad,” Clark said firmly, interrupting before Xander could speak. “He did what it took to make us safe.” His words took everyone in the room by surprise.
The Aesir looked his uncle in the eye and steeled himself for the reaction he knew was coming. “I showed them that they didn’t want to push me,” he said flatly. “I showed them that I would push back if they tried and that they really didn’t want that.” He swallowed hard before continuing. “I told them that if they or any of their clients ever tried to hurt the people I care about again, I would declare war on them… and I wouldn’t stop until Wolfram and Hart was no more.”
“You threatened them?” Jonathan looked appalled by his words, much the way that Xander had expected.
“They’re afraid of me, Uncle Jonathan,” the teen explained calmly. “And not just a little afraid either… so I took a page out of their book and insured they knew exactly what would happen if they crossed me again. It was the only leverage I had without giving them exactly what they wanted.”
“You can’t just go around threatening people like that!” his uncle exclaimed. “There had to be a way handle it that didn’t require you to stoop to their level! You’re talking about fighting a war against human beings, not demons! You can’t possibly be serious! No matter how many special abilities you have, no matter how powerful you might be, you’re still just one man, Xander!”
“Two men,” Clark interrupted, stopping his father short. “I wasn’t all that happy with Xander’s solution either, but if it comes down to it, I’ll back him up all the way to the gates of Hell.”
“I doubt it’ll come to that, Clark,” Xander said, surprised by the sudden vehemence in Clark’s voice. “But I had to make Wolfram and Hart realize I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the people I love safe, except give them what they want. I had to make it clear that they would pay if they hurt one of you…and that the price would be so high that no benefit they thought they would get from it would justify it.” Xander swallowed hard. “I did it the only way I could without hurting a lot of people in the process.”
“He’s right, Jonathan,” Martha interjected softly. “If Wolfram and Hart were really behind those demons this afternoon, then as long as they felt that the benefits outweighed the risks, we were all in danger.” She smiled sadly at her nephew. “As long as they believe Xander is capable of carrying out his threats, they probably won’t risk it.”
“Whether or not it’ll work isn’t the point,” the farmer answered, clearly aggravated that no one else seemed to see his point. “Once we start letting the ends justify the means, then they’ve already won!” Jonathan leveled an accusing glare at Xander.
“They underestimated me today, Uncle Jonathan, and we’re all alive because of it,” the Aesir answered calmly, meeting his uncle’s glare with a fixed, unemotional stare. “Should I have relied on dumb luck and being underestimated to protect us forever? Should I allow hollow moral platitudes like the ones you’re spouting get more of my family killed?” his face hardened as anger seeped into his voice. “Because doing nothing would have gotten people killed eventually, they would’ve tried again and again until they succeeded.”
Xander stared his uncle in the eye, refusing to back down from his convictions. “I hated what I did tonight, Uncle Jonathan,” he said quietly. “I sincerely wish I didn’t have to do that, that I didn’t have to make these choices, but I did what was necessary.”
Jonathan frowned, clearly upset still. “And what will you do when they call your bluff? Have you considered that?”
The Thunder God’s face turned grim. “I’ll do whatever is necessary,” he answered, “because I wasn’t bluffing.”
A cold, shocked quiet filled the room. “I really, truly hope that it never comes to that,” Xander’s voice sounded unnaturally loud in the still room. “But, they’ve been warned, they know the price they’ll pay for their actions. If they choose to start this war, I will do whatever it takes to make sure they never hurt another soul again.”
“Xander!” his uncle exclaimed, aghast. “Do you even hear yourself? You’re talking about…”
“I’m talking about going to war,” the Aesir interrupted. “Wolfram and Hart is one of the most evil organizations in this entire dimension. They represent everything that is wrong with this world. If it comes to it, I will take them on. I will dedicate my entire life to eradicating them by whatever means necessary.” A grim look settled on Xander’s features, “And if it comes to that, if Wolfram and Hart starts this war by trying to hurt the people I love ever again, the world will be a better place when I’m done.”
Without another word, Xander turned and walked back through the kitchen door and into the warm summer night.
* * * * *
Xander stood alone for a long while, leaning against the wooden fence around the field and staring into the darkness. Behind him, he could hear the sounds of an argument raging in the Kent kitchen. His words had not sat well with his uncle at all, a fact that didn’t surprise him in the least. It was far too easy to believe in a black and white world when you didn’t have to do anything about it. Unfortunately, the moral high ground was a bit harder to hold on to when reality set in.
The Aesir frowned. His senses had sharpened quite a bit since his transformation…not quite as much as when the hyena had possessed him but enough to make shutting out the raised voices difficult. He hadn’t meant to cause so many problems for the Kents, especially by just being here, but shielding them from the truth wasn’t really an option either. What he really needed though, was to give them some space to talk where he couldn’t hear them.
An odd idea crossed his mind and he fished the new cell phone that his aunt had given him out of his pocket. He pressed the first speed dial he’d set up and waited tensely as the phone rang. “Hello, Mrs. Rosenberg, is Willow around?” he asked when an older female voice answered the phone. “She isn’t? Oh…well, tell her I called.” Willow had gone to visit an Aunt in San Francisco for a few days, leaving Xander only one other option. Hopefully, finding Chloe wouldn’t be too hard.
The teen slid the phone back into his pocket and slipped the chain that held Mjolnir over his head, grasping it firmly before willing it back to full size. He held the hammer for a long moment, watching the sparks dance along its surface. With a thought, he rose up slowly into the dark evening sky, marveling at how amazing it was that he could feel so free. Turning, he flew toward the high school. He knew that Chloe had done all of her research into Sunnydale from computers at the high school, and hoped he’d find her there.
He covered the distance slowly, at least in comparison to his earlier flights, and still found himself floating above the school in less than a minute. There was a single car in the student lot, a rather beat up looking Volvo wagon. Since he couldn’t imagine too many other students being in the school at this hour, he guessed that was probably Chloe’s car. An instant later, he was standing at the entrance to Smallville High with Mjolnir hidden safely around his neck. Trying the door, he was unsurprised to find it open. After all, it wasn’t like crime was a serious problem in Smallville.
Plastering on his best goofy grin, he strolled through the building to the torch office. He intentionally walked a little more loudly then necessary, hoping to not startle Chloe too badly. A faint tingle raised the hairs at the back of his neck a moment later, stopping him dead. Straining his ears, the only sounds he could hear were the tapping of fingers on computer keys and the low hum of fluorescent lights. Frowning, he moved more cautiously, alert for anything to explain away the nagging sense of wrongness that he could feel from somewhere in the building. Finally chalking it up to a case of nerves, he approached the door to the Torch. Inside the well-lit office, Chloe was sitting at a computer, typing away, completely oblivious to her surroundings. Watching her reminded him of Willow and the way the girl could focus so intently on something that the outside world seemed to vanish.
He knocked tentatively at the open door, hoping to get her attention without startling her. Her eyes shot to the door and a broad smile lit up her face when she saw him.
“Xander!” she exclaimed with no small measure of surprise. “I thought you were in Metropolis?”
“I got back a little while ago,” he said honestly. “Clark said you came out to the farm looking for me…”
“You could’ve called, you know. You didn’t have to come find me in person,” the blonde pointed out. “Not that I mind seeing you…”
“Sorry, I just sort of needed to get away from… things for a bit,” he said with a sad look in his eyes. “You’re pretty much the entire short list of people I know in Smallville that aren’t upset with me at the moment.”
“Did something happen?” Chloe asked, seeming concerned.
“Just the usual weirdness of my life,” Xander replied evasively. “When all the dust settled, the Kent’s domestic bliss wasn’t quite so blissful anymore.” He shrugged, “I’m letting them have some privacy to sort it all out. Hopefully when it’s all said and done, I’ll still have a place to live.”
“It was that bad?” she asked, shocked by the implications. In all the years she’d known Clark, she’d never even heard Jonathan or Martha Kent raise their voice in anger.
“So,” Xander said, plastering on another smile as he changed the subject. “You already figured out the mystery of Sunnydale? I’ve got to say that’s pretty impressive. Most people who live there never really get it and yet you figured it out in a matter of hours.”
“Actually, that’s the part that bugs me,” Chloe’s eyes narrowed. “Once I talked to you, everything just started falling into place. I mean it just seemed so obvious all of a sudden.”
The Aesir nodded, the girl’s words confirming a theory he’d had. “Yeah, I thought it might. There’s something about Sunnydale that protects it from people looking too closely. I think the mayor is behind that actually. It even keeps the people in Sunnydale from figuring out what’s really going on. It’s like you can see all the pieces but you can’t see how they actually fit together no matter how hard you look.”
“That’s exactly what it felt like,” Chloe confirmed with a nod. “But once I did what you said, it all seemed so much clearer. I meant it’s still bizarre and unbelievable…but it makes sense in a creepy kind of way.”
“Believe it or not, that’s magick. Someone, probably our old buddy Dick the mayor, is using a very powerful spell to cloud people’s minds when they look into his town,” Xander explained. “It’s the only way to keep that much weird crap from at least showing up in the tabloids.”
“Alright, that makes sense, I guess, but why did it stop affecting me?” the reporter asked pointedly.
“That’s a little harder to answer,” he hedged. “Either someone or something countered the spell’s effect on you,” he offered, leaving out that his presence was most likely the something responsible, “or maybe you’re something more than human yourself which let you push through the effects since you could see that something weird was going on from the start. Most people can’t even really see that. Or it could be something else entirely, since even perfectly normal people occasionally see through the spell’s effects.”
“It just seems a little coincidental that it happened after I talked to you,” she repeated that point in her head several times, considering it.
“I just have that effect on people?” he said with a cheesy grin. “I seriously don’t know if I’m joking about that or not…for all I know, the fact that I was born in Sunnydale or raised there or whatever could have something to do with it.”
‘Or the fact that I’m one of the Aesir,’ he thought before continuing aloud. “I never claimed to really understand magick.”
“So… vampires, demons, magick… it’s all real then?” she finally asked. When Xander nodded, she continued, “And is that whole ‘Boca Del Infierno’ thing literal or…”
“Oh, it’s literal all right,” he confirmed immediately. “An actual portal to Hell sits right under the Sunnydale High School library. A very old, very ugly vampire opened it briefly on the night of our Spring Fling dance. Serious mayhem ensued, though luckily no one got hurt in the process thanks to Buffy kicking the vamp’s ass and staking him.”
“Really?” she seemed shocked. “Buffy? I’m sorry but the name just screams vapid, cheerleading valley-girl, not bad-ass vampire hunter.”
“That’s pretty much exactly what she was, before she was Called,” Xander said with a wry grin.
“Okay, I could practically hear the capital letters… What do you mean ‘Called’?” Chloe asked, clearly intrigued.
The Aesir smiled, the blonde had completely switched into reporter mode, despite the fact it was a story that no one any where would ever really believe. “She’s the Slayer. A chosen, mystical warrior sent to battle the vampires and demons to protect mankind. She has special powers to make her a match for the monsters: strength, stamina, agility, and fighting skill, all packed into a very helpless looking former cheerleader.” Xander suppressed a laugh at the shocked look on the girl’s face. “She did most of the actual fighting. The rest of us just backed her up and helped the best we could.”
“So are there a lot of these Slayers?” she asked after a long pause.
“Nope, one girl in all the world at any given time. One Slayer dies and the next is Called,” his smile faded. “No one knows how or why or even who the next Slayer will be before they’re Called… that’s just the way it works.”
“Wow, that has to suck,” Chloe said softly.
“Yeah, Slayers have been training, fighting and dying to protect the world for thousands of years and most people will never even know their names,” Xander replied sadly. “And they usually work completely alone. One Slayer and her Watcher, who’s a kind of mentor/trainer/guide for the Slayer, against all the evil in the world. It’s not fair, but that’s how it is.”
“So how did you get involved if the Slayer is supposed to work alone?” the reporter asked.
“Have you noticed how much like an interview this has become?” the Thunder God asked, changing the subject suddenly. He’d drug up enough memories for one day when he told the Kents the whole story, he wasn’t ready to do that again just yet.
Chloe blushed and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry about that, it’s one of the hazards of being a reporter,” she admitted with a chuckle. “Not that anyone would believe this story anyway.”
“The world is probably better off this way,” Xander said flatly. “There’s enough for normal people to worry about without adding the monsters from our nightmares to the list.”
“So why are you sharing this with me?” she asked a moment later. “I mean, I’m grateful that you trust me with your secret life as a super-hero monster fighter…but why me?”
“I don’t know,” he replied with a smile. “It just felt right.”
Chloe’s smile lit up the entire room.
* * * * *
Clark couldn’t believe how obstinate his father was being. Despite his own, knee-jerk response to his cousin’s actions, Clark knew that Xander did what he believed was right. Even Clark and his mother agreed that it was probably the best thing that he could have done under the circumstances. Jonathan, however, adamantly refused to accept that it was for the best. The fact that Xander had come right out and admitted that he had every intention of carrying through on his threats if need be certainly hadn’t helped either.
Not that Clark could blame Xander. The last time the young Aesir been in a situation like this one, it didn’t end well and no amount of reassurance seemed to ease the other boy’s guilt over his parents’ deaths. Of course, Xander would feel like this now, in the heat of the moment…but a week from now? Or a month? Or longer? There was no way of knowing for certain that he would ever be willing to actually carry out his threat or even if he would ever need to. Yet, Clark’s dad was acting as if Xander was going to start acting on it tomorrow morning.
“Dad,” Clark said softly, his calm voice cutting through the din of discussion between his mother and father. “What would you have done in Xander’s place? He already feels like his mom and dad died because of him, because he tried to make a deal with evil. How far would you go to protect us if it came to that?”
Jonathan stopped dead in his argument, considering his son’s words. It came as no great surprise that his son was backing Xander up in this. After all, Clark had already revealed his abilities to the boy and he’d clearly chosen sides in this argument. Stubbornly ignoring his son’s point, he continued, “Clark, just because you and Xander are different and have these abilities doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply. What Xander did was wrong,” he said simply. “Just because someone else might make the same choice under the same circumstances doesn’t make it right.”
“Then what do you want to do, dad?” the teen demanded, his own stubborn temper slipping at his father’s words. “Send him away? Prove that he was right? That’s what he expects you know.” Clark looked his father in the eye, “Xander knew that you wouldn’t approve of what he was going to do. That’s why he didn’t tell you his plan. He expects to be sent away, to be cut out of our lives over this, to lose everything he’s got again. He did this in spite of that. He put protecting this family ahead of every other consideration in his mind.”
“We’d never…” Jonathan protested, shocked by what his son just told them. He was upset with Xander, true enough, but what Clark was suggesting was certainly not his intention. He just wanted to make sure that Clark and Xander knew what the older boy had done was wrong…so that they would never do something like that again. “Xander’s part of this family…I might not approve of what he did, but I’d never send him away…”
“I know that, dad,” Clark said simply. “Xander doesn’t. I’m pretty sure that he went outside because he thinks that you and mom are arguing over whether or not he gets to stay with us.”
Jonathan looked at Martha, chagrined by his son’s words. It wasn’t the first time he’d lost his temper and done something rash, but it was the first time that Xander had been privy to it. When the farmer considered the sort of environment that his nephew had been forced to grow up in, Clark’s words made perfect sense. He should have known better than to assume that the other teen would know that they wouldn’t send him away, no matter what. “I should go talk to him,” Jonathan said simply, getting up and heading through the door into the night.
* * * * *
“I’m not kidding!” Xander declared with a broad smile. “I was suddenly standing there, in my boxer shorts, in front of the whole class. It was my one of my most humiliating nightmares and it just came true without warning.”
Chloe couldn’t help but laugh. The young man was nothing like what she would have expected from someone who had been through the things Xander had. Despite all the darkness in his life over the past year, he still had an infectious good humor. They’d been swapping stories and getting to know each other for over an hour now, since he’d confirmed her findings.
“Well at least now I know why your school records from Sunnydale are so colorful,” she said with a smile of her own.
“Yeah, well, Principal Snyder was a troll,” he said grinning. “Not literally…he actually looked more like a Ferengi, only without the ears… He took a great deal of pleasure in failing me.”
“At least life in Smallville is bound to be less intense than Sunnydale,” Chloe countered with a chuckle. “I mean, you said there’s hardly any demon activity around here, right?”
“So far, but I seem to attract trouble…so we’ll have to wait and see,” he answered, his smile slipping. “Assuming the Kents don’t send me back to L.A. to live with my drunken Uncle Rory.”
“I’m sure it’ll be okay, Xander,” she said reassuringly. “The Kents are good people. They’ll get past whatever it is.”
“I’m not so sure, Chloe,” he said with a sad look. “I don’t have the best track record when it comes to family. It’s why I tend to trust my friends so much more than my family…”
“Yeah, well, in my book family are the ones that stick by you no matter what…and the rest of them don’t matter anyway,” the blonde said vehemently, clearly referring as much to her own family as to Xander’s.
The Aesir was just trying to decide how to broach the subject of what had happened in Chloe’s family to make her feel this way, when the strange tingling sensation he’d felt earlier raced up his spine, distracting him. His eyes flicked to the doorway just in time to see a teenage boy standing there staring at them. Something about the young man’s presence seemed to grate against Xander, as if he were somehow unnatural. Xander shot to his feet, his body tensing for combat. He recognized the teen. He’d seen the other boy at the Beanery when he first met Chloe and again this morning when he and Chloe had talked on the steps of the school.
“Him, Chloe?” the boy demanded. “You’ve been ignoring me for him? You hardly even know him!”
“Eric!” Chloe exclaimed, shocked to see her fellow student here. “What are you talking about?” She started to stand up before catching Xander’s quick motion for her to stop.
“I love you Chloe!” Eric shouted angrily. “We’re meant to be together! And here I find you talking to this…nobody, like some common whore! You belong to ME!”
“She doesn’t belong to anybody, pal,” Xander cut in, stepping between Chloe and the other, clearly unstable, young man. “And there’s nothing going on between Chloe and me anyway… we’re just friends, so why don’t you calm down.”
“SHUT UP!” he shouted back. “I won’t let you humiliate me like this. I won’t. If I can’t have you, Chloe, than no one can!” The teen threw his hands out toward Xander and Chloe, pointing his fingertips at them.
Xander’s eyes narrowed as ten small, green, crystalline missiles shot out from the boy’s fingers toward them. Everything slowed down as Xander spun and shoved Chloe aside as gently as he could, getting her out of the path of the sharp-looking projectiles. The Aesir braced for pain as several of the crystals hurtled toward his back. The kid had to either be some kind of demon masquerading as a human or using some sort of magick, either of which could hurt him, he could only hope it didn’t kill him.
To his surprise, he felt the soft taps of painless impact as each of the missiles shattered against his back. A quick glance over his shoulder allowed him to see one of the crystals pass cleanly through the concrete outer wall of the school, but not through him. “What the hell are you?” he demanded, whirling back to face his wide-eyed attacker.
“You…you should be dead!” Eric exclaimed loudly. “I hit you, you should be dead!” He fired another volley of the high-speed crystalline arrows from his finger tips at Xander.
In a blindingly fast display of an Aesir’s reflexes, Xander’s left hand flashed out, snatching one of the projectiles from the air before allowing the other nine to smash harmlessly against his chest. The boy turned to run away as his second volley failed as miserably as the first. The Thunder God’s options seemed to explode into his mind as the world seemed to crawl around him: he could use his hammer, slay his attacker and have to explain that to Chloe… he could let the boy escape and deal with it later, risking another attack on Chloe in the meantime… or he could improvise.
Reaching out, he scooped up a hard-backed textbook from a nearby table and hurled it at the retreating teen. It caught the boy squarely in the back and propelled him with a loud thud into the far wall of lockers, probably breaking several bones and definitely rendering whatever he was unconscious.
He turned back to Chloe to find the blonde staring up at him, her eyes wide. “Are you okay?” he asked in a concerned voice.
“I’m fine…but what are you?” the reporter asked. “I mean, those things he shot at us punched through walls but couldn’t penetrate your skin! And the way you grabbed one of them out of the air? That was amazing!”
Xander sighed loudly. It was the perfect ending to a truly lousy day.
* * * * *
Aphrodite smiled as she watched her cousin deal with the aftermath of the second attack he’d endured in the past twelve hours. Putting him in a situation where keeping his true nature a secret would be impossible had worked out perfectly. Xander opening up to Chloe would be the first step toward her ultimate goal of getting the two of them together. Of course, there was still a certain Kryptonian shaped obstacle to overcome, but she had no doubt that Xander’s natural charms would be sufficient to that task.
She was impressed with the way her cousin had dealt with the threat as well. He hadn’t even killed the poor, kryptonite infected pawn she’d used. “Eros?” she asked, calling her son’s name.
“Yes, mother?” the other Olympian replied, stepping out of the shadows to stand next to Aphrodite.
“Wonderful job,” she praised with a smile. “The boy went from love to obsession to a jealous rage like clockwork. Now we just have to keep Kal-El out of the picture, romantically at least, and wait.”
The two Olympians smiled as they vanished. Wasn’t love grand?