Chapter 13 – Truth and Consequences 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: As always, thanks for the reviews and recommendations you've all been so kind as to give me. Feedback is always a wonderful thing, even if you're telling me about something you didn't like in a particular chapter. I really do try take your concerns and critiques to heart and use them to make a better story. A word of warning though, I'm recovering from a brush with pneumonia, so please forgive me if my update schedule takes a bit of a hit as a result. It's hard to write coherently when you feel like crap.
-== Chapter Thirteen – Truth and Consequences II ==-
Xander glanced down to find nine bullet-like holes in his shirt, effectively rendering any denial of having been hit utterly ridiculous. “Aww man, I really liked this t-shirt too,” he lamented aloud, mostly for the distraction factor, as he tried to decide on the best way to handle the situation. Looking back at Chloe, he was confronted with an expression that was reminiscent of Willow’s resolve face. Clearly, this just wasn’t his day for keeping secrets.
“I’ll explain everything, Chloe,” he said resignedly, “I promise, but first we should take care of Mr. would-be assassin over there. He’s not a demon or even a sorcerer, so I’m a little out of my depth here…any ideas?”
“How can you tell?” she asked curiously.
“Magick and demons can hurt me but he couldn’t…which is kind of a relief, because I’m betting serious puncture trauma sucks,” he grinned as he said it. “Plus it’s kind of nice to finish a fight uninjured for a change.”
“You didn’t know he couldn’t hurt you?” Chloe seemed shocked by the revelation.
“Nope, I figured he was a demon or something. I was pretty shocked when it didn’t hurt,” he answered seriously as he offered her his hand and helped her to her feet.
“And you still put yourself between him and me? Wow,” Xander wasn’t quite sure what to make of the look she gave him before she continued. “I’ve never met anyone who would risk their life like that for someone they hardly knew. Thank you.”
The Aesir blushed. “You’re welcome,” he said sincerely, “I’m just glad I was here.” He cleared his throat, clearly embarrassed by her gratitude. “So, uh, any clue what we should do with this guy? Or even what he is?”
Chloe turned toward the hallway where their attacker was lying. “God Xander!” she exclaimed seeing the way the other boy was sprawled. “How hard did you throw that book?”
“Uh, a little harder than I meant to…but the wall stopped him before it carried him too far,” he said sheepishly.
“So you’re strong and nearly indestructible?” she asked clearly impressed. “Anything else I should know about?”
“Yeah, but that’s a long discussion and I don’t think he’s going to stay out that long,” he answered honestly.
“His name’s Eric Richards,” Chloe said, getting back on topic, “and if you’re ruling out your areas of expertise, than I’m guessing he’s been infected by the meteors.”
“He’s been what?” Xander asked, completely thrown by her statement.
“Weird things have been happening in Smallville since the big meteor shower eleven years ago,” the reporter explained. “Strange mutations, generally bizarre events, the whole range of freaky things that might seem normal in Sunnydale…only without the cooking related fatalities. I believe the meteor rocks are responsible.”
“Huh,” Xander said shortly, eyeing the young man for a moment. “That might explain why just being near him is giving me the wiggins. He’s got this whole unnatural energy vibe around him.”
“So maybe you can sense people who have been affected by the meteor rocks?” she asked, clearly wondering what else he could do.
“I don’t know…maybe. This is all new to me,” he answered with a shrug. “So how do we deal with him?”
“I’ll call the sheriff…he’s still a human, even if he is a super-powered, psycho-stalker,” she said simply. “It’s the only thing we can do.”
“Uh…there’s one problem with that. How do we explain this?” he gestured to his chest. “And this is so not going to look good with my track-record from Sunnydale…”
Chloe frowned. Xander was right. They couldn’t very well rationally explain how missiles that could punch through a concrete wall didn’t kill him. “Get out of here. The sheriff won’t ever have to know you were here. Eric didn’t even know who you were, so it’ll be his word against mine. Even if he described you, the sheriff would probably think he was talking about Clark, who actually wasn’t here.” She paused meeting his eyes before she continued. “Your secret is safe with me, Xander.”
Xander smiled. Chloe’s simple declaration meant a lot to him. “I promise, I’ll explain everything as soon as I can,” he said sincerely, walking to the door. When she nodded her acceptance of his words, he turned and ran down the hall toward the nearest exit. He stepped through the door with Mjolnir already in hand and exploded into the air. As he sped back toward the Kent Farm, one thought kept running through his head: Clark was going to kill him for telling Chloe.
* * * * *
It didn’t take long for Jonathan to realize that Xander wasn’t on the farm. He honestly couldn’t blame his nephew for leaving, after all if the boy was convinced that he was going to be sent to live with Tony’s equally alcoholic brother in L.A., why would he want to stick around? Especially since he could apparently fly off to anywhere he wanted to go. Jonathan sighed. He was going to have to learn how to deal with Xander and get over the boy’s trust issues. It had been so much easier to raise Clark, even with his son’s unique origins.
Xander’s life had been different from Clark’s though, it had been darker and far less forgiving. It was a miracle that the boy wasn’t a monster himself. And that was the rub, Xander was completely committed to doing what he thought was right and damn the consequences. The problem was that despite all of his powers, Xander was still a teenage boy. He didn’t always know what was right. He had to learn to that he had people he could trust to help him make the right choices. That’s what family was for.
As the elder Kent crossed the yard toward the door to the farm house, he heard a whistle of displaced air that reminded him of when Clark would run around at super speed. He turned to see Xander standing in the darkness a short distance away, the massive hammer he’d called Mjolnir held loosely at his side. An instant later, the teen was slipping a hammer-shaped medallion over his head. Despite having seen Xander do that very same thing once before, watching him disguise the magickal weapon served to remind Jonathan just how strange this day had been so far.
A grim expression settled on the young man’s features as he stared at his uncle for a long moment. Neither of them spoke as both searched for some way to break the uncomfortable silence. It was Xander who finally spoke. “I’ll understand if you want me to leave,” his voice was calm and even, as though he had already resigned himself to his fate. “I won’t hold it against you or anything. Being around me has become kind of hazardous lately, and I don’t want to endanger any of you…”
“We don’t want you to leave, Xander,” Jonathan began sadly. “This was never about whether or not you got to stay with us and I’m sorry if you thought it was. This is your home now. Nothing will ever change that unless you want it to.”
The Thunder God stood there in stunned silence for a long moment. He had hoped he would be allowed to stay, but it had never occurred to him that his aunt and uncle wouldn’t even consider sending him away. “That means a lot to me, Uncle Jonathan,” he answered softly. “It really does, but I can’t change what I am. I can’t pretend that I’m not going to do what I think is right, no matter what the consequences might be.”
“I know that,” Jonathan admitted before swallowing hard, “but there have to be limits to what you do and how you do it. If you sink to the same level as the evil you’re so determined to fight, then you’re no better than they are.”
Xander sighed softly. Despite his better judgment, his uncle’s words made a lot of sense. It would be entirely too easy to cross the line between good and evil if he wasn’t very careful. After several, long moments of consideration, the Aesir reached a decision. “You and I aren’t always going to agree on what’s right,” he began evenly, “probably not even most of the time. But I’ll try my best not to cross those lines unless I’m left without a choice. I won’t let innocent people or the people I care about die get hurt or die to preserve an idealistic view of good and evil though.”
The farmer frowned at Xander’s words. His nephew was right, they probably wouldn’t agree often, but he was at least willing to try. The young man was offering a compromise, one that made a lot of sense. “Alright, but you have to promise to try and talk to your Aunt Martha and me from now on…before you run off and threaten someone like you did tonight.”
The teen nodded. “I promise,” he said simply before stepping out of the shadows toward his uncle. As he stepped into the light, the holes in his t-shirt became instantly visible.
“What happened?” his uncle asked, a concerned look lining his weathered features.
“Oh, I, uh, saved someone from becoming Swiss cheese,” he replied evasively. He’d just reached a truce with his uncle, he wasn’t about to jeopardize it by telling them about what Chloe had learned yet. “The attacker had the ability to fire these green crystals with enough force to punch through concrete walls…and my shirt too apparently, but they shattered against my skin.”
“What did you do?” his uncle asked hesitantly.
“Knocked him out and left him for the sheriff to deal with,” the Aesir explained with a shrug. At his uncle’s look, he rushed to reassure the older man, “It’s okay, Uncle Jonathan, my secret’s safe, honest.”
“Alright,” his uncle said with a tight smile, taking his nephew at his word. “Let’s go inside, I’m sure Martha and Clark are worried about us.”
* * * * *
Clark and his mother looked up as Jonathan and Xander entered the room. Clark immediately noticed the series of small, jagged, round holes that dotted the front of his cousin’s navy blue t-shirt. If not for the pale, unmarked skin beneath the punctures, he’d have sworn that Xander had been shot repeatedly.
“Xander! What happened?” Martha Kent exclaimed on seeing the damaged shirt.
“I stepped between a young lady and a guy that could shoot these from his fingertips,” he held up the green crystal he’d caught during the attack. “Luckily for me, they weren’t magickal and just put holes in my shirt instead of my chest.”
A wave of weakness rolled over Clark as Xander stepped closer. Dizziness and nausea assaulted the teen, driving him backward and causing his knees to buckle. He staggered heavily into the wall behind him, groaning as the pain of the impact flared through him worse than when the demon had slammed him into the ground earlier. His strength fled as he slid weakly down the wall to the ground.
“Clark!” Jonathan exclaimed as he rushed to his son’s aid.
The Aesir stopped cold. He could feel a strange sensation of energy rushing from his cousin and into the crystal. The crystal grew subtly warmer in his hand under the onrushing flow of power. It was as if the crystal itself were draining the other boy’s life-force. Xander backed up quickly, stopping only when he felt the flow of energy fade away. Almost instantly, color rushed back into Clark’s paling features and the boy seemed to breathe easier.
“What’s wrong?” Jonathan asked sharply as Xander stared at the crystal he still held.
“I…uh, I’m not sure,” Clark replied, sounding relieved. “It was like my strength was suddenly gone. I couldn’t even hold myself up. Then as quick as it started it was gone.”
“It’s the crystal,” Xander said abruptly. “I could feel it pulling energy out of Clark as he fell. When I backed up, it stopped.”
“Are you sure Xander?” Martha asked, looking puzzled.
“Pretty sure,” the Thunder God replied. “I could step closer again and see if it happens a second time, but I don’t want to risk hurting Clark.”
“I don’t understand how a crystal could affect Clark like that,” Jonathan said concernedly. “It doesn’t make any sense!”
“Has anything like this ever happened to you before, Clark?” The boy’s mother asked.
The youngest Kent frowned, considering the question. “There were a few places where I used to start feeling sick like that…but this was a lot worse than anything I’ve ever felt before.”
“What places?” his father asked, clearly surprised by the revelation. “Why didn’t you tell us about this before?”
“It never seemed like a big deal…it’s been years since it even happened,” Clark said, getting defensive. “The worst place was the old foundry…me, Pete, and Greg Arkin used to play over there sometimes when we were kids and it always made me feel sick.”
“There’s a foundry in Smallville?” Xander asked having never heard it mentioned before.
“Not anymore. It took a direct hit from one of the larger meteors during the meteor shower. It’s been closed ever since,” Martha explained. “They never even attempted to repair the building. It’s been standing condemned for over a decade.”
“Meteor…I’ll bet there are fragments of the meteor rocks all over the area around it then,” the Aesir mused thoughtfully. “You know…Chloe has this theory. She thinks that the meteor rocks are causing all kinds of mutations and weird things to happen to the people that are exposed to them.”
“Xander, if she’s talking about 50 pound tomatoes and two-headed calves, I’ve got a better explanation for it,” Jonathan countered. “The LuthorCorp fertilizer plant opened right after the meteor shower and who knows what it’s been pumping out over the last ten years…”
“Actually, she was more referring to guys that could fire crystal missiles from their fingertips at the time,” Xander confessed. “She was the one I saved tonight.”
“Chloe saw you use some of your powers?” his uncle exclaimed, clearly unhappy with the revelation. “I thought you said your secret was safe, Xander?”
“It is safe, Uncle Jonathan,” he countered. “Chloe promised that she wouldn’t tell anyone and I trust her.”
“What exactly does she know?” Jonathan demanded, sounding more perturbed than Xander felt he had any right to.
“She knows some of what I can do, not all of it. None of why I can do it and everything about Sunnydale that doesn’t involve what I am,” Xander voice hardened as he spoke. “I didn’t intend for her to find out about my powers, but I wasn’t about to let her die to protect my secret either and this guy meant to kill both of us.” The teen sighed, reigning in the anger he was feeling. “I haven’t told her anything about Clark’s secrets and I won’t tell her about them. I am going to tell her the truth about me though. She deserves to know the whole story about the secret she promised to keep.”
“Xander!” Clark started to protest again.
“No Clark,” the Aesir cut him off. “We’ve been through this already. It’s my life, my secret, my choice. I have to trust Chloe now, she saw me get hit by these things and saw the same volley go right through a concrete wall. I can’t make her forget what she saw, so this is how it has to be.”
Jonathan sighed. No matter how much he might want to deny it, Xander was right. There was no going back at this point. “You’re right Xander,” he admitted. “It is your choice what you tell her. I just hope you’re prepared for the possible consequences if she violates your trust.”
“I’ll have to be,” Xander agreed solemnly. “I promise though, I won’t say anything about what Clark can do. That’s not my secret to share and I won’t betray that.” His aunt and uncle nodded their reluctant acceptance and Xander turned to his cousin who was still glaring at him angrily. “I’m sorry Clark. I know I said I’d talk to you before I told her about my abilities, but I didn’t have a choice. I’m not as fast as you unless I’m flying. I couldn’t get her out of danger without getting hit and if I hadn’t done what I did, Chloe would be dead.”
“I know Xan,” the teen said bitterly. “It’s just going to make it a lot harder for me to keep lying to Chloe when you don’t have to.”
It was Martha who broke the tense silence that descended on the room, turning the conversation back to its original topic, “So Chloe thinks that the meteors gave your attacker his powers?”
“Yeah, and if he got the ability from the meteors, than maybe the crystals share some of the same properties as they do, like making Clark sick,” the Thunder God explained, getting back to the point he had been trying to make.
“So…you think I’m allergic to the meteor rocks?” Clark asked, still seeming unconvinced. “That might explain a few things, but why? Nobody else seems to be affected like this.”
“Maybe it has something to do with your powers,” the older teen offered. “We really don’t know anything about why you can do the things you do. Maybe it’s all interconnected somehow: the meteors, your abilities, and the effects of the meteor rocks on you.”
Neither of the boys noticed the strange, almost strained look that passed between Clark’s parents in response to Xander’s words.
“Maybe you should get rid of the crystal, Xander?” his aunt suggested, gently steering the conversation away from yet more dangerous ground.
With a quick nod, Xander stepped back outside. A few paces away from the farmhouse, he drew back to throw the crystal away before stopping abruptly. If he threw it, there was no telling where it might land or who might get hurt by it. Even as he contemplated other ways that he might be able to dispose of it, he began to question the decision to get rid of it. It was as if some dread-filled little voice in the back of his mind kept telling him that he might have need of that crystal someday.
He wasn’t entirely sure why he finally decided that he would keep the crystal, but he quickly found himself looking for a way to safely hide it away. It only seemed to affect Clark if he got within a few feet of it, so he needed a place that Clark never went. A moment later, his brain seized on an idea and he jogged across the yard to the barn. Once there, he placed the crystal inside the strange metal box that had held his gauntlets when Hermes gave them to him.
As soon as he closed the box, he realized that he could no longer feel the crystal’s presence. It was as if the box itself contained the weird energy that it had been giving off since Clark’s episode. Scooping the box up, he carried it out behind the barn, grabbing a shovel as he went. He quickly dug a hole, nearly three feet deep and just large enough to hold the box. Placing it carefully in the trench, he covered it back over and packed the dirt tightly against it. Between the box and the dirt he could only hope that Clark wouldn’t be affected by the crystal. He found himself equally hoping that he was wrong and would never have need of it.