Chapter 21 – Deus Ex Machina
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…
-== Chapter Twenty-One – Deus Ex Machina ==-
Xander strode off angrily toward the barn, leaving Clark on the ground where he’d landed. He couldn’t understand why his brother didn’t seem to see the big picture. If he’d been normal then he would have died on the fender of Lex Luthor’s car a few hours ago. Why didn’t that seem to factor into the boy’s thinking? Clark desperately needed to come to terms with things before he got himself, or someone else, killed in his ongoing quest to be ‘normal’.
“Xan! Wait up,” he heard his younger brother call from behind him. He stopped and whirled to face Clark, looking the other teen squarely in the eye. To the Thunder God’s great surprise, the look of sullen broodiness that Clark had worn more or less continuously since the accident was gone. It had been replaced by an expression of angry determination. “You’re right, Xander. A normal teenager would have died on that bridge today. I’m not human and I need to accept that…but it’s not that easy for me,” the alien argued vehemently. “You know what you are and why you have the powers you have. I don’t! The only
thing I know about myself and my powers is that I’m not human. How am I supposed to accept what I am, when I don’t know what I am? How can I embrace my abilities, when I don’t know why I can do these things?”
The Aesir smiled tightly. Clearly, he’d struck a nerve earlier, which meant that he was at least getting through to Clark. It occurred to him that his brother was essentially grieving over the loss of his illusions. Since he was finally starting to get angry, maybe he was making some progress. “If I had the answers, I’d give them to you, Clark,” he said evenly, “but I don’t really see how brooding about it is going to help either. I’ll tell you what I do know, though. It’s no accident that you’re here. It’s no accident that you can do the things you do. You’re here for a reason, the same as me…”
“Really?” the other teen asked bitterly. “Since you seem to have this all figured out, enlighten me. Why are we here then?”
“Why, to change the world, of course,” a distinctly feminine voice that neither of the boys recognized said from nearby.
* * * * *
The garage of the Luthor mansion was quiet as a tomb. The only sound that could be heard was the soft rustle of very slow, deliberate movement and the hum of the fluorescent lights. Ever since the remains of his car had been dropped off, Lex had been unable to tear his eyes away from the wreck.
It was certainly understandable. After all, he’d died driving that vehicle scarcely five hours ago. Some degree of morbid fascination was inevitable, especially given the strangeness of it all. It was a thought that the young man couldn’t seem to fully comprehend. He hadn’t just nearly died. His heart had actually stopped. He had drowned in the confines of a watery grave shaped like an expensive Italian sports car. He could still recall, with near perfect clarity, the feeling of flying over the town of Smallville in those moments after he died.
Lex was no stranger to dangerously close calls with death. He felt like he’d been playing chicken with the Grim Reaper since his mother died. Maybe even since the day of the meteor shower, when he had his first close call. He’d never been one to shy away from taking risks and over the last few years of his lingering rebellious phase, he’d nearly died at least twice only to emerge completely unharmed. This time, though, the odds had finally caught up to him. This time, he owed his life to the Kent brothers, a fact that was not without its own measure of irony considering that he fairly certain the accident should have killed both boys right alongside him.
The more Lex thought about his rather disjointed memories of the last few moments before he lost consciousness, the more convinced he became that things simply didn’t add up. He could accept that Alexander Kent, and wasn’t that an ironic name for one his saviors, had actually only been a few feet from his brother and hadn’t just magically appeared in that last moment. In fact, he could vaguely remember an impression of something moving in the periphery of his vision right before the boy jumped into his line of sight. The problem was that neither boy seemed to be moving out of the way in that final moment. He could even recall a fleeting memory of a series of thumps as the car tore through the railing and plummeted toward the river below. Thumps that seemed consistent with what he expected two solid bodies bouncing off his car to sound like.
Only it was impossible. He absolutely could not have hit those boys. If he had, they would have been killed. No human being could have been hit at those speeds without life-threatening injuries or immediate death. No other outcome was even remotely conceivable. And yet, even Lex could see that there was damage to the car that was consistent with having hit them. Such as the two distinct impact points that had shattered the glass windshield. The police investigator had dismissed it as debris impacts from the railing.
Then there was the matter of the car’s roof. It looked as though it had been folded back specifically to allow someone to pull him from the wreck. Even the investigator hadn’t been able to adequately explain that away. The Kents had claimed that the roof was like that when they reached the car on the riverbed, making it yet another convenient miracle among many pertaining to the accident. Especially since the prospect of a teenager having the strength to open one of the car doors at those depths seemed unlikely as well.
There were just too many unanswered questions about the accident, Lex finally decided. Other, lesser, men might have been able to accept the seemingly miraculous course of events that had saved his life, but he couldn’t just let it go at that. After everything that had happened in the course of his life so far, Lex didn’t believe in fate or divine intervention. There had to be a rational explanation for what had happened and no matter what it took, he had to find out what that explanation was.
The only thing he was absolutely certain of, was that Alexander and Clark Kent knew a great deal more about what had really happened then they had told him or the police. He could hardly blame them though. Why on Earth would they trust a complete stranger who had just nearly killed them both? And the Smallville police force was far more akin to the Keystone Kops than to a serious investigative organization.
Still, the boys had undoubtedly saved his life without even knowing who he was.
The younger Luthor smiled confidently as he reached a decision. No matter what his investigations into the two boys and the accident itself revealed, he knew the perfect way to start working on winning their friendship and eventual trust. After all, if his father had taught him anything at all…it was the value of patience.
* * * * *
Turning toward the new voice, Xander and Clark were immediately faced with a woman of indescribably beauty. She was tall and statuesque, carrying herself with a regal grace as she stepped toward them, a grace that seemed somewhat at odds with the wicked smile she wore. The woman wore a tight, pink baby-doll t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘You know you love me’ in bright red letters, along with a pair of almost skin tight, black leather pants that rode low on her hips. Her hair was done up in a mass of elegantly styled black curls that fell to gently frame her face.
For a long awkward moment, no one spoke, a fact which seemed to please the woman immeasurably. Finally she said, in an almost mocking tone, “What’s the matter, boys? Cat got your tongues?”
Xander immediately shook off his nearly stunned reaction to the woman’s presence as an important realization exploded in his awareness. This was no mere mortal woman…this was one of his cousins. And if he wasn’t mistaken, he knew precisely which one. “Aphrodite, I presume?” he asked with a smile.
She shot him a smile that could have melted an entire polar ice cap. “I always knew you were a smart one, cousin. Though I’m beginning to think my presence might be a bit much for your brother… he hasn’t even blinked yet.”
Clark cleared his throat and shook his head, as though trying to clear it as well. With an effort, he tore his eyes away from the Olympian’s shapely, and barely concealed, body to meet her eyes while blushing in embarrassment. The mortal teen shifted uncomfortably under her scrutiny.
“Everything okay, Clark?” the Thunder God asked in an amused tone.
“Uh, yeah,” he responded embarrassedly. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to stare…” His eyes remained fixed on Aphrodite’s face as he spoke.
“Actually, I’m impressed, Kal-El,” the Goddess said with a half-smile, letting her own eyes wander over his body before meeting his gaze again. “Most mortal teenagers wouldn’t be capable of looking me in the eye. They’d be entirely too caught up in the fantasies playing out in their hormone soaked minds.” Her words caused a second round of blushing in the teen. “Your Kryptonian heritage must be to blame for the amount of self-control you possess.”
“Kryptonian?” The Aesir asked abruptly. “So you do know about where Clark is from and why he’s here?”
“Yes,” Aphrodite replied, looking at Xander with a grin. “Though I thought we’d already covered the why… You’re both here to change the world, hopefully for the better, but that’ll depend entirely on the choices you make. Your mere presence has already begun to affect the tapestry of life, shaking up the status quo.”
“Can you tell me about where I’m from?” Clark asked before Xander could say anything more. “About why I was sent to Earth or about who I am?” His voice was anxious as he spoke.
“I can reveal some of it to you, Kal-El,” she answered, favoring the teen with a knowing smile, “but I have to warn you: you may not be ready to hear all that I have to say. Equally important, you must know that there are things I cannot tell you, things that will be revealed to you in their own good time.”
Xander narrowed his eyes at his cousin, instantly feeling somewhat suspicious. “Why are you actually here, cousin?” he asked, interrupting. “You’re the first member of my immortal family to appear to anyone other than me, why is that?”
Aphrodite shot him an amused grin, “It does seem a bit suspect, doesn’t it? Me turning up right at this moment, giving you the answers to the very questions that Kal-El’s been asking for so very long now…”
Before the Thunder God could do more than nod, Clark interjected a question. “Why do you keep calling me that?” he asked. Each time the Goddess said that name, he felt something stir deep inside. It seemed so very familiar to him, like something half-remembered, from a dream.
“It’s your name,” the Olympian answered without hesitating, her eyes never leaving Xander’s. “The name your parents gave you at birth.” She paused for a moment before addressing the Thunderer, “I’m here to help, Xander. Your brother feels like he needs answers before he can come to terms with his identity. I can provide those answers, or at least some of them.” She smiled broadly and the Aesir immediately wondered what she wasn’t telling him. “And we can appear to Kal-El now because the rules have changed. For the last few millennia we were forbidden from appearing to any mortal for any reason, now we can appear to certain, extraordinary mortals under certain conditions.”
“So you’re just here to answer Clark’s questions…to help him?” the Thunder God raised a disbelieving eyebrow as he spoke.
Aphrodite sighed in feigned exasperation. She’d fully expected her cousin to be suspicious of her motives, but she wasn’t about to admit that she was actually there to meddle in the boys’ love lives. Even though it was her divine right as the Goddess of Love to interfere as she saw fit, she knew that Xander would disagree, violently, with what he perceived as meddling. And after hundreds of millennia worth of practice at manipulating mortals, she was fairly certain that he’d never figure out what she was really up to anyway.
“Xander, I’m not here to make trouble for you,” she replied honestly. “I just want you and Kal-El to have a chance at some happiness during your teen years. Since I don’t see that happening with Mr. McBroody-pants hanging all over the cheerleader,” she turned back to Clark. “Sorry, sweetie, but you aren’t nearly dark enough to brood without looking ridiculous and Lana is so
wrong for you…”
Xander practically had to bite his tongue to avoid laughing at the affronted look on his brother’s face at the Goddess’ words. He was still grinning madly when she turned back to him with a wicked smirk on her face.
“And for a God gifted with your ability to see the truth of things, you certainly could stand to open your eyes as well,” she said archly. “She likes you a lot, if you’d get off that white horse and stop being so damn…noble and self-sacrificing… you’d see it.”
“Who?” Clark asked, clearly pleased to learn that Xander was nurturing a secret crush of his own. When the Olympian only smiled back at the Kryptonian slyly, it suddenly clicked. “Chloe?” he said incredulously, earning an immediate glare from his brother.
Ignoring him, Aphrodite grinned. “Wouldn’t they make a great couple?” she asked the alien.
“Can we go back to the part where you were going to tell Clark about where he’s actually from?” The Aesir asked petulantly as he continued to glare at them both.
The Goddess just grinned back at him. Whether her Asgardian cousin ever realized it or not, she knew that her real mission here had been a success. Xander and Clark would both seriously consider her seemingly offhand remarks about both of their respective crushes. She’d just planted the seeds that would eventually lead both of her plans coming to fruition and neither of them even realized it.
* * * * *
Jeremy Creek stood watching the auto repair shop that Frank Martin owned from the shadowy alley opposite it. From what he’d been able to learn, the owner was the same Frank Martin who’d been quarterback for the Smallville Crows the last time they won the state championship. The same Frank Martin who’d tormented Jeremy all through grade-school, junior high, and into high school. The same Frank Martin who’d tied him to a wooden cross in a cornfield the night before the meteor shower.
He could remember that day like it was yesterday. He could remember the fear, the pain, the deep chill of the cool night air on his mostly naked body, and the exhausted desperation of his unanswered cries for help. He’d sworn that he’d get even, that he’d make sure that no one else ever suffered that way again. Then the sky fell around him and he’d spent eleven long years trapped in an endless nightmare, reliving his torment every moment while he struggled to wake up.
He’d spent a virtual eternity trapped in his own personal Hell just because he was different. Because Frank Martin and his cronies had thought he was weak. Only Jeremy wasn’t weak anymore. His time in Hell had changed him, made him strong. Now he was strong enough to exact a fitting vengeance on the people who had condemned him to such a horrible fate. Now he was the one with the power…the power to make an example of them.
As he strolled across the darkened street and into the mostly deserted garage, he couldn’t help but smile. He had a debt to collect from his old friend Frank, a debt of pain that had finally come due. Before he was finished they’d all pay: Frank, his cronies, and everyone like them. Every last one of them.
* * * * *
Aphrodite spent a moment carefully considering what she could tell the young Kryptonian about without revealing too much. Smiling, she decided on what she believed would be a safe solution. “You were born on the planet Krypton in a distant galaxy. The Kryptonians were an incredibly advanced race in terms of science and technology.”
The God of Thunder split his attention between listening to his cousin and watching his brother’s reactions. Clark listened intently, much the way Xander had when Yve told him about the Aesir. The Goddess of Love had warned that Clark might not be ready to hear everything she had to say, and to Xander that could only mean one thing. Whatever chain of events had lead to Clark being sent to Earth was probably the result of something tragic. He needed to be ready to help the Kryptonian deal with whatever unpleasant revelations might be in store.
“Intellectually, the Kryptonians were far more advanced than humanity it. They developed an almost utopian society, led by the planet’s greatest scientists,” she explained, keeping a very neutral expression. “Unfortunately, not everyone was pleased with this arrangement. In time, a terrible civil war engulfed Krypton, one whose aftermath would ultimately destroy the planet and most of the Kryptonian race.”
To Xander’s surprise, Clark was far less upset by this news than he’d expected. He seemed disappointed, but not devastated by the news. In fact, the Aesir was left with the distinct impression that Clark had almost expected the news.
“I am sorry, Kal-El,” the Olympian said sadly. “It was only thanks to your father’s efforts that you survived. The ship that brought you to Earth was launched mere moments before Krypton exploded.” She sighed. “The meteors that fell when you arrived were fragments of your home-world that entered the wormhole your ship created to cross the vast distances necessary to bring you to this world in such a short time.”
Xander put a hand on his brother’s shoulder and squeezed reassuringly as Clark considered what he’d been told. The Kryptonian swallowed hard before finally asking, “Am I the only one who survived Krypton’s destruction?”
“No,” Aphrodite answered with a shake of her head, “but you are the only Kryptonian on Earth, possibly even the only one in this entire galaxy.” She smiled sadly before continuing, “This location of this world was one of the House of El’s most closely guarded secrets. They had been visiting this world and observing its peoples for centuries. Its selection as your destination was neither accidental nor random.”
“Then why? Why was I sent here?” Clark demanded.
“Because your father believed you would be safe here, Kal-El,” she said bluntly. “Your father was a prominent member of Krypton’s ruling council for many years and was responsible for many things, some of which earned him powerful enemies. Not all of those enemies died with Krypton, and he feared that those enemies might seek you out and destroy you.”
The Thunder God frowned uncertainly. He could only wonder what Clark’s father had done to incur that kind of hatred? Unless things were very different on other planets, being willing to eradicate an enemies entire family seemed like a fairly extreme response.
“Do all Kryptonians have powers like Clark’s?” the Aesir asked. If they did, then Xander needed to gather up more meteor rocks and hide them, just in case any other Kryptonians showed up, hell-bent on taking revenge against his brother.
“On this planet they would,” the Olympian answered, nodding to Xander. “Kryptonians evolved under the light of a red sun. It’s the rays of our own yellow star that give them the powers of a veritable demigod.” She looked back at Clark before explaining, “Your cells store the sun's energy to fuel your abilities. As your body matures, it can store more and more energy, increasing your powers and giving you abilities beyond those you currently possess.”
“What kinds of abilities?” Clark asked.
“It’s difficult to say,” the Goddess replied evasively. “There were very few instances of your people on Earth using their powers. Strength, speed, flight and a near total invulnerability to physical injury are the only abilities we’re certain they all developed.”
“What about the meteor rocks?” Xander interjected. “They seem to drain Clark’s powers and make him sick. Would they affect other Kryptonians that way as well?”
“Yes, the green Kryptonite crystals were altered by the catastrophe that destroyed Krypton. They painfully sap the sun’s energy from a Kryptonian rendering them powerless and vulnerable. Prolonged exposure could even prove fatal.”
Xander looked at Clark for a moment before repeating for good measure, “Hear that Clark? Lana’s necklace could kill you if you were around it long enough.” Clark glared at him in response.
“Is there any way to protect myself from the effects of Kryptonite?” he asked the Olympian.
“Certain metals, like lead or various magical alloys can block the effects,” Aphrodite said with a pointed look at Xander. “Kryptonians are also no more resistant to magick than any other mortal being.”
The Thunder God nodded his understanding. If need be, his hammer could hurt a Kryptonian, a fact that he found strangely comforting. Then again, who’d want to face an enemy that they couldn’t hurt without extraordinary efforts? Admittedly, the gauntlets he’d been given would level that particular playing field, but still…it was nice to know he wouldn’t need them in a fight against a Kryptonian.
“Well, there’s a weakness we have in common too, Clark,” the Aesir said jokingly. “We get more alike every time we turn around.”
“Yeah, except that you don’t have people out there who’d want to kill you because of who your father is…” Clark said heatedly before seeing Xander’s raised eyebrow and ‘oh yeah?’ look.
“Jormungandr,” Xander said bluntly holding up one finger. “Whatever tribe of demons those assassins Wolfram and Hart hired were from,” he added a second finger. “Every immortal enemy that Thor ever had,” he raised a third finger. “Do I need to go on or have I made my point?”
Aphrodite couldn’t help but chuckle, “He’s right, Kal-El. You two are remarkably similar. You may be the only Kryptonian on Earth but you certainly are not alone.” She smirked wickedly. “Honestly though, you should really learn to trust your friends, they deserve it.”
Before the boys could say another word, the Goddess vanished.