Chapter 2 – Admissions
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, 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 reading and reviewing. I really appreciate the feedback. I’ll try for another update next week before Thanksgiving, but no promises. It’s going to be a busy week for me.
-== Chapter Two – Admissions ==-
Clark was less than happy as he entered the Beanery. Things had been somewhat tense in the Kent household over the past couple weeks. It had all started when a letter arrived from his Aunt Jessica almost three weeks ago. She had sent them a recent picture of her son, Xander, and begged them to forgive her for the things that had happened after his visit to Smallville. She had asked them to take in her son, and explained that neither Xander, nor his father knew she was writing them
They had been more than willing to take him in. They’d even tried to get custody of him in the wake of his injuries on his last visit to the farm. Unfortunately, at the time they’d been unable to prove the abuse and neglect they were certain Xander was suffering at his father’s hands. They had tried to get in touch with Aunt Jessica, without success, up until they received a second letter in the mail yesterday.
The second later just contained two newspaper clippings. The first had been an article taken from the front page of the Sunnydale newspaper about the fire that had destroyed a gas station and killed several people the day they’d received Jessica’s letter. The second clipping had been obituaries for Jessica and Anthony Harris listing their dates of death as the day of the fire. It wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened, luckily the obituaries clearly stated that Xander had managed to survive the fiery tragedy. Clark’s mother had spent hours on the phone yesterday trying to find her nephew to no avail. She had only just gone to their family attorney a few hours ago to enlist his aid in finding out what had happened to Xander. To say that they were worried about Xander’s fate, would be something of an understatement.
As Clark looked around the coffee shop, he immediately spotted Chloe. She was sitting at a table with a dark-haired young man that he didn’t recognize, which wasn’t surprising since all he could see was the back of the guy’s head. Forcing a tired smile on his face, Clark approached the two, unnoticed, and caught a snippet of their conversation.
“A gas station exploded and threw a chunk of flaming debris half a mile. It hit my house. My Mom and Dad were trapped inside while the house burned to the ground.” The boy’s strangely familiar voice stopped Clark cold.
‘That couldn’t possibly be Xander,’ Clark thought in shock, though he had to admit that the style and color of the hair looked right…
“Oh my God, Xander!” Chloe exclaimed, reaching out and grabbing the teen’s had sympathetically.
There was no denying it now and Clark’s jaw dropped open. At least Clark now knew why they hadn’t been able to find where his cousin was in Sunnydale. He wasn’t actually in Sunnydale. He’d been on his way to Smallville… but why?
“Mom always told me to come to Aunt Martha if anything ever happened to her, so here I am. If Aunt Martha and Uncle Jonathan can’t, or won’t, take me in, I’m not sure what’ll happen…” The young man who was clearly his cousin continued, driving Clark out of his shocked state. The fact that the other boy was even worried about being turned away hurt. They knew that Xander had lost a lot of his memory surrounding his first visit thanks to the accident, but clearly he’d lost more than they’d feared and it hadn’t come back the way the doctors thought it would.
“Xander,” Clark said softly, hoping not to startle his cousin too badly, “You’re family. Mom and Dad would never turn you away…” He smiled sadly as the other teen turned around, shock clearly written on his face.
The look of recognition on Xander’s face was almost instantaneous as he laid eyes on Clark for the first time in more than half his life. “Clark?” he gasped, practically jumping to his feet in surprise. “Where did you…how long…did you hear everything?” he stammered, trying to come up with a coherent question.
Clark carefully pulled his cousin into a supportive hug, his sad smile never wavering. “I heard,” he replied, “I’m sorry to hear about Aunt Jessica… and Uncle Tony.” Even to his ears that statement sounded less than sincere. He was actually sorrier that their passing had hurt Xander more than that they had died. “How are you holding up?”
Xander returned Clark’s embrace cautiously. Close contact with people still made him nervous, if he got carried away someone could easily get hurt or even killed. “I guess I could be worse,” he answered after pulling away. He shuffled around the table to make room for Clark to sit down. With an apologetic grin at Chloe, he quickly tried to change the subject, “I’m pretty sure you already know this lovely lady. Though, she thinks pretty highly of you, so maybe she’s mistaking you for someone else.”
Clark grinned, surprised at Xander’s playful banter. “So, how did you meet Xander, Chloe?”
She smiled at the farm-boy and Xander chuckled to himself. ‘Geez, Clark,’ he thought. ‘A blind astronaut could see how she feels about you from orbit…oblivious much?’ He sincerely hoped he’d never been this bad with Willow. If he had, he owed the red-head a very sincere apology for being so obtuse.
“I overheard him asking about directions to the Kent Farm and started talking to him…” she began to explain.
“Uh, I’m not sure about here in Smallville,” Xander interrupted, “but back in Sunnydale this would’ve been called an interrogation. It’s alright though. A good friend always has your back and Chloe definitely has your back Clark.”
Chloe blushed at Xander’s words and he felt his heart try to melt. ‘Bad idea, Xan,’ he chided himself. ‘Your life is complicated enough without developing a crush on a girl who’s already hung up on your cousin…’
Well, I should let you two catch up,” the smiling blonde finally said a moment later. “Thanks for the latte, Xander. It was nice to meet you and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.”
“I certainly hope so,” he replied, his grin turning unexpectedly serious.
“See ya later, Clark,” she said, her entire demeanor changing as she looked at the other boy, driving a twinge of…something he didn’t want to think about into Xander’s heart.
“See ya, Chloe,” Clark replied. Once the blonde had left, the young man looked at Xander. “We really missed you, Xander,” he said warmly. “All three of us wished things had gone differently after your last visit.”
“I wish I could remember, Clark,” Xander replied as his face turned sad again, “but whatever happened to put me in that coma took my memory of the entire trip.” He paused long enough to swallow the last of his mocha. “And for the first couple of years afterwards… well, I got in a lot of trouble if I so much as mentioned you guys, or the farm. Maybe I was better off not remembering what I lost out on.”
An awkward silence fell over table as Clark struggled for some way that he could make things better. “Everything is going to be okay, you know that right?” he said finally.
“Yeah,” the Aesir replied a little bitterly. “I know, ‘time heals all wounds’ and all that… it just doesn’t feel like time is helping much yet.”
“Mom is across the street at Nell’s flower shop,” Clark said a moment later, changing the subject. “She’ll be ready to go back to the farm soon, we should head over.”
“Lead on, Super-boy,” Xander declared as he fished his bag out from under the table. The words rolled off his tongue without conscious thought or consideration, feeling as though he’d said them a thousand times before. It wasn’t until he noticed the shocked look on his cousin’s face a moment later that he realized something was wrong. “What?” he asked, confused by Clark’s reaction.
“What did you just call me?” The surprise in the younger boy’s voice was unmistakable.
Xander stopped and thought for a moment. The word sprang to his mind, carrying with it an image of two young boys wearing masks and pretending to be super-heroes. “Super-boy,” he repeated, seeing a flash of a young Clark in his mind again. “Where on Earth did that come from?”
“It was a super-hero name you gave me when you visited. We seemed to play at being heroes almost non-stop,” Clark supplied. The truth was that he had been given that nickname after a six-year old Clark had showed the older boy that he could lift the rear end of his father’s pick-up truck above his head. After that, Xander had taken to calling him ‘Super-boy’ and had started helping Clark plan his life as a super-hero. They’d spent the rest of his visit dreaming up and playing at the grand adventures they would have as he protected people and saved the world from evil with Xander as his trusty sidekick.
“I remember…” the older teen replied with a smile, “I can remember! I’ve spent years trying to recall anything real from that trip, Clark. Maybe being back here will finally bring some of it back…”
“Maybe,” Clark said with a tense, noncommittal smile. ‘How will Xander react if he remembers me showing him how strong I was?’ he wondered quietly. ‘And even worse, how will mom and dad react to the fact that I told Xander my secret and never told them about it…’
“Well then,” Xander finally said a moment later, “After you… Super-boy.” He shot a teasing look at Clark as he said it, pulling the other teen from his dark musings.
Clark couldn’t help but grin at Xander’s infectious good-humor. It reminded him a lot of the Xander in his memories.
Xander pretended not to notice the sudden tension in Clark’s bearing after he called him Super-boy the first time. There was something here that he couldn’t remember yet. Something that Clark wasn’t telling him. The Aesir wasn’t sure which bothered him more, the fact that he couldn’t remember or the fact that his cousin wasn’t telling him. Still if Xander had learned anything in fifteen years with Tony Harris, it was how to appear to be happy. So he put on his best goofy grin and followed Clark across the street.
As they approached the flower shop, Martha Kent stepped out carrying a small tray of potted flowers, which she carefully put in the back of a red pick-up truck. “Hey mom,” Clark called out at once, “Look who I found in the Beanery with Chloe.”
“Hi, Aunt Martha!” Xander called out, waving cheerfully. Instantly, a look of shock spread across her face.
“Xander?” she asked. When he nodded an affirmation, Martha rushed over and hugged him fiercely. “Oh God, Xander!” she began, clearly relieved to see him. “What happened? Are you alright?”
Puzzled confusion flooded through Xander. Somehow his aunt knew what had happened, he realized in a sudden shock of his own. “You know?” he asked, taken aback by the revelation. “You know about mom and dad? How… who told you?”
“Nobody told us,” his aunt replied. “We got an anonymous letter in the mail yesterday. It had a copy of the article about the fire clipped from the Sunnydale paper and copies of your parents’ obituaries in it… Why didn’t you call us? We would’ve come, we would’ve been there for you… you shouldn’t have had to go through this alone.” Her voice was choked with concern for him.
A sinking feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. He could only think of one person who might’ve done such a thing. “Where did the letter come from?” he asked numbly, fearing the answer he might get.
“We don’t know,” Clark chimed in. “There was no return address, only a postmark from someplace called Valaskjalf, California that we couldn’t find on any map.”
“Valas…” Xander trailed off mid-word as a sense of relief flooded through him, washing away his fears. Wolfram and Hart hadn’t interfered, Odin had. “What did the letter say?”
“Nothing,” his aunt answered. “There was just a blank slip of paper folded around the newspaper clippings. But we got a letter from your mother the same day the paper said the fire occurred. She asked us to take you in, to help you get away from your father before something bad happened. We tried to get in touch with her to tell her you were welcome here, never knowing we were too late.”
Xander stood there in stunned silence, struggling to keep up with what his aunt was telling him. They already knew that his mom and dad were dead and had been willing to take him in even before this tragedy had happened. An eerie memory of a younger Martha Kent telling him that he would always have a home with them, no matter what happened exploded in his head. “You… wanted me here?” he asked. “You wanted me to stay… before the accident?”
“Don’t you remember, Xander?” she asked, seeming surprised. “The night before your parents came to get you we promised to do everything we could to convince them to let you stay here, with us.” Hot tears spilled down Xander’s face as she answered him. “But then the accident happened and the fight between Jonathan and your father. After that, your father wouldn’t hear of it.”
“I…I don’t remember much of what happened the last time I was here,” he admitted softly. “Not really. Just bits and pieces, flashes really. Some of it I’m not even sure really happened.” He swallowed hard, closing his eyes and forcing back the tears, reining in his emotions before the rapidly gathering clouds could turn dark and rain would begin falling.
“It’s okay, Xander,” his aunt reassured him. “Let us take you home. You can get settled and then we can talk about everything together, as a family.”
Xander nodded numbly, feeling overwhelmed. As the three of them piled into the truck, he was given the dubious honor of sitting between Martha and Clark on the bench seat, mostly because he was a good four inches shorter than his cousin. They fell silent as his aunt started the truck and pulled out onto the road on the way back to the farm.
“So how much do you remember, Xan?” Clark finally asked after a couple minutes of awkward silence.
“Before you found me in the Beanery, I couldn’t remember anything at all about my first trip to Smallville,” the older teen responded. “But seeing you and Aunt Martha started bringing things back, like fragments of us playing together and Aunt Martha telling me I would always be welcome here.”
“The doctors told us you were likely to suffer some memory loss after the accident,” his aunt explained calmly, “but that being around familiar places and people from your visit might bring some or even all of what happened back to you.” She smiled sadly, “After all the time that’s passed, I’m not sure how much you might be able to remember eventually, but we’ll help as much as we can.”
Xander swallowed hard again. He’d spent years wondering what really happened that day…the day of the accident. The real question was: did they know the answer to that question and would they tell him? “Can you…tell me about the accident? What really happened?”
Clark exchanged an uncomfortable glance with his mother, hating the fact that his memory was so good. The events of the day Xander was supposed to go back to Sunnydale after his last visit lived on in his mind as if they had happened just yesterday…
* * * * * Flashback * * * * *
Clark stared in surprise at the fear on his seven-year old cousin’s face as a car turned down the driveway onto the farm. In the two weeks they’d been together, he’d never seen Xander get so pale.
“It’s my Dad,” Xander said softly, his voice quavering. “Please, save me Super-boy.” Then, without warning, he turned and ran into the barn as fast as he could.
The six-year old boy stared after his cousin for a long moment, unable to understand why anyone would be afraid of their own Dad. Finally, his Uncle Tony’s car pulled to a stop nearby and the man stepped out with a scowl on his face. “Where’s Xander?” he demanded, “he was supposed to be ready and waiting for us, it’s a long drive back home and we’re burning daylight.”
“Xander doesn’t want to go back to California, Uncle Tony,” Clark answered respectfully, the way his parents had taught him to always treat grown-ups. “He ran into the barn when he saw your car.”
The look of annoyance on his Uncle’s face was quickly replaced with a much darker, scarier look and Clark watched as the man stomped across the yard toward the barn. A strange feeling of anxiety quickly settled into the boy’s gut, it reminded him of the way he felt when he told Xander about how strong he was. A few minutes later, he heard his Uncle shouting in the barn.
“Alexander Lavelle Harris!! You get your sorry ass down here and get in the car,” the man was yelling so loud that Clark could hear it clearly in the yard. “If I have to come up there after you, I swear I’ll beat you to within an inch of your life!”
Xander’s parting words rang in the boy’s ears and Clark was moving towards the barn as fast as his little feet would carry him. His cousin needed him. Inside the barn, Clark skidded to a dead halt, watching in shock. His Uncle Tony and Xander were on a landing in the stairs that led to the loft. Tony was rapidly raining blows down on the boy with a leather belt. He looked on in horror as Xander staggered backwards under a particularly vicious swing and his head hit a support post… hard.
The boy went limp, his body sagging under its own weight and tumbling backward beneath the railing into the open air of the barn. Panic surged through Clark and suddenly everything around him slowed down to a crawl. For just a moment, Clark Kent vanished and the not-so-make-believe Super-boy took his place.
He ran forward as fast as he could, positioning his body beneath the falling form of his cousin, meaning to catch the falling boy. He had all the time in the world, as everything continued to move in a strange sort of extreme slow-motion. Nothing like this had ever happened before, but he was glad it was happening now... it might just save Xander's life.
Xander tumbled into his arms, and the young super-hero let himself collapse under the weight, absorbing the impact of his cousin’s injured body with his own.
When they struck the ground, time exploded back to full speed, and Clark began yelling at the top of his lungs. “DAD! Mom!” he shouted. “Xander’s hurt! Dad, help!”
His Uncle Tony stomped down the steps toward the two boys, the anger on his face never wavering. Clark had no doubt that if his Uncle got to them before his dad, that he wouldn’t be spared a couple hits with that belt. He didn’t hesitate, rolling over gently and laying Xander carefully against the floor of the barn with his own body between the injured boy and the enraged adult.
“Clark!” he heard his father shout a moment later, just before his uncle reached them. “Martha, call an ambulance!” There wasn’t any hesitation in Jonathan Kent’s voice as he shouted back at his wife while rushing over to the boys.
“He doesn’t need an ambulance,” Tony Harris ground out, clearly still mad at his son. “The little brat is just pretending, he’s not really hurt.”
“He hit Xander, Dad,” Clark said back, standing up and planting himself firmly between his Uncle and cousin, a hard expression on his young face. “He hit Xander with his belt and made him hit his head on one of the posts really hard. He fell off the landing and I had to catch him to keep him from hitting the floor.” Anger bubbled up through the six year old, and by the end of his explanation Clark was shouting at Tony.
“You lying little shit!” Tony shouted back. “Xander was trying to run away from me when I was trying to spank him, tripped and fell. I never hit my son!” He took a threatening step forward, trying to intimidate Clark into moving, but the boy wouldn’t budge. “Get out of my way, I’m taking my son and we’re leaving for Sunnydale.”
“Xander needs medical attention,” Jonathan said flatly, as he checked to make sure his nephew was still breathing. “He’s not going anywhere until that ambulance gets here.”
“You son of a bitch,” the other adult spat back. “He’s my son, and I’ll be the one to decide what’s best for him! He’s getting in the back of my fucking car and we’re going home… Now you and your son best get the hell out of my way.”
“No,” Clark said bluntly. “You touch him and I’ll hurt you.”
“Like a little piss-ant like you could hurt me,” Tony sneered. He locked eyes with the child that dared defy him and seemed surprised when neither the boy nor his father flinched. The elder Harris almost growled in frustration.
Clark’s eyes narrowed as he watched the grown-up that had hurt his cousin step forward, moving to shove him aside. Everything slowed to a crawl again. He stepped inside the man’s reach and swung his fist at his uncle, hard. It connected soundly in his assailant’s gut and everything exploded back to normal speed as Tony sailed across the barn to thump soundly against the wall and slide down unconscious.
“Clark!” his father shouted a moment too late.
* * * * *
Martha nodded to her son and Clark spoke up reluctantly. He hated that he couldn’t tell his cousin the whole truth, “I saw the whole thing, Xander, are you sure you really want to know?”
“I need to know, Clark,” the Aesir stated firmly. “That day took away my memories of all the time I spent with you guys. It took away everything that might have been. I need to know if it was really an accident…”
Clark nodded unhappily before beginning. “You ran into the barn to hide when your dad pulled up. When he ran in after you he looked angry and I heard shouting. I ran into the barn just in time to see him hit you with his belt… you fell backwards off the stairs and hit your head on a post pretty hard. Luckily you fell onto some hay bales or the impact might have killed you.” He couldn’t stand the fact that he had to lie to Xander the same way he did everyone else. Xander was family, that’s why he’d told him about his powers as kids, but his parents would never approve of sharing his secret like that. Not then and certainly not now.
The younger teen stared at his cousin for a moment, noticing the angry clench of Xander’s jaw before he continued. “Your dad didn’t think you needed a hospital, he claimed you were faking being hurt worse than you were. He took a swing at my dad when mom called you an ambulance.”
“We did everything we could to try and get custody of you afterward, Xander,” his aunt added. “But it came down to Clark’s word about what happened against Tony’s. The investigation just didn’t turn up enough evidence for social services to take you away from him.”
Xander nodded. “He never would’ve let me go,” he half-whispered in the suddenly quiet truck. “Without me, he wouldn’t have had anyone to blame his failings on. He would’ve killed mom, she didn’t know how to take a beating without getting hurt…”
The boy shook his head suddenly as though realizing he’d spoken aloud. “Sorry,” he said with a sad look, “I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, no matter how much they deserve it.”
Martha’s heart broke when she heard Xander’s admission that his father had physically and mentally abused him. She wasn’t a violent or vengeful person by nature, but for Anthony Harris, she decided she could make an exception. She glanced at Clark to gauge his reaction to Xander’s words and was instantly glad that Tony wasn’t alive and somewhere Clark could get to him.
Clark was quiet in the wake of Xander’s words, his jaw set angrily. He had clenched his fists hard enough to turn his knuckles white and dig his fingernails into his palms. He wasn’t sure he actually believed in an afterlife, but he found himself hoping that his uncle was burning in a very special level of Hell for what he had done to Xander. It was a thought he somehow found very comforting.
The truck remained quiet as they turned onto the farm’s driveway. The sight of the old wooden sign proclaiming “Kent Farm,” brought a smile to Xander’s face as a flash of memory surfaced. For some reason, his parents had paid for him to fly into Metropolis, where Martha and Clark had picked him up. They’d spent the drive back to Smallville getting to know each other and he could remember how happy and excited he’d been. The thrill of joy he’d gotten from seeing the farm for the first time had been fantastic.
Even now a strange feeling of comfort and welcome seemed to radiate from the entire farm. Kents had been born, lived and even died on this farm for generations now and it had long ago ceased to be merely a place. It was practically a living, breathing member of the family. Almost immediately, Xander felt as though he might really belong here, as if this place could easily become his home.
But could he really stay here? The fact that the Kents were willing to take him in was amazing enough, but would his mere presence endanger them? Could he really take that risk?
As his Aunt Martha parked the truck, the barn loomed nearby, drawing Xander’s attention to it and away from his musings. He started at it intently, expecting to feel something…some sense of dread or discomfort, some reminder that it was there that he’d been hurt so badly. A memory flashed through his mind. He and Clark were retreating into a clubhouse of some sort… a loft within the barn perhaps. An image of an older man, perhaps his Uncle Jonathan, followed, referring to it as Clark’s ‘Fortress of Solitude,’ telling them how he had helped his father build it when he’d been Clark and Xander’s age.
“Is everything okay, Xander?” his aunt’s voice asked, penetrating his memories. He looked around to find himself alone in the truck with his aunt and cousin staring concernedly at him.
“Sorry,” he replied with a soft smile. “I was remembering playing in the barn with Clark… a clubhouse or a loft we called the ‘Fortress of Solitude’ or something…”
“It’s the loft,” Clark confirmed with a grin. “I can show you around later if you want…”
As he spoke, Clark walked toward the back of the truck where Xander’s bag lay, clearly intending to grab it for him. “Thanks,” the Aesir replied, trying not to panic. If Clark picked that bag up and discovered how heavy it was…it would be very difficult for Xander to keep his strength a secret. “Don’t worry about my bag, Clark,” he said with a forced grin and a strangely calm voice. “I only wanted to have to keep up with one bag, so I stuffed it pretty full. It’s kind of heavy, so I’ll get it.”
Xander almost didn’t notice the weird look his aunt and cousin exchanged… almost. He chalked it up to them not being sure how to deal with him just yet.
“Are you sure, Xan?” the younger boy asked. “I don’t mind grabbing it for you…”
“Positive,” the older teen replied, striding quickly to the back of the truck and getting the bag before Clark decided to go ahead and grab it anyway. “I’m being a big enough burden just being here.”
“You’re not a burden, Xander,” his aunt chided gently. “You’re family. If family can’t take care of each other, who will?”
As Xander silently followed the Kents into the farmhouse, he found himself wondering how he was going to be able to leave them behind. They deserved protecting and the best thing he could do to help protect them was get far, far away as soon as he could.