Chapter 23 – Scarecrow 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: I'd like to apologize in advance for the fact that the next chapter of this story stands a pretty good chance of being a little late. I had some difficulties with writing chapter 24 and as of right now, I still haven't gotten it typed up and sent to my beta-reader. With any luck, I'll have it to my beta no later than tomorrow evening and the next posting won't be more than a day or two late. In the meantime, enjoy this latest chapter and I'll do my best not to throw my update schedule any further off than absolutely necessary.
-== Chapter Twenty-Three – Scarecrow II==-
As the Kent brothers wandered through the halls of the Luthor mansion looking for Lex, Xander was quite content to let Clark lead the way. It was obvious to both teens that the house had been empty until quite recently. Even still, the opulence of the house and its furnishings seemed to leave the young Kryptonian in awe. “This place is amazing,” he commented as they climbed the stairs to the second floor.
“Sure, it’s great,” Xander replied somewhat sarcastically as he tried, and failed, to shake off the weird sense of unease that seemed to emanate from the very walls of the mansion. “If you’re dead and in the market for something to haunt…”
As the reached the top of the stairs, they immediately hear the sounds of metal clashing against metal combined with the frantic scuffling of continuous movement. The two teens exchanged a puzzled glance. The momentary pause allowed Xander’s brain to suggest to a logical explanation for the noises. “That sounds like a swordfight,” he suggested with a confused frown.
With a shrug, Clark led the way toward the sounds at a slightly faster pace, leaving Xander to follow behind once more. “Just remember, Clark,” the Aesir called out as they walked, “if we end up in jail for trespassing, it is so your fault.”
Clark just rolled his eyes and ignored his brother. It had been Xander’s idea to jump over the fence and knock on the door when no one answered at the gate. He’d just taken it a step further and led them inside when the door also went unanswered. It wasn’t like they’d actually broken in or anything, the door was unlocked.
They entered the room where the sounds originated and drew up short. Two figures clad in white fencing gear, including face masks, were busily battering away at each other with foils. Xander narrowed his eyes, studying the combatants intently for a moment. As fighting instincts he was only beginning to understand kicked in, the Warrior God found himself picking the action apart and analyzing the match.
He immediately realized that one of the two figures was, in fact, female, despite the fact being almost completely concealed by the combination of protective gear and the lady’s own, slight frame. The woman was clearly the more experienced fencer of the two, moving with an almost feline grace. Certainly, she was no slayer, but she was definitely very good with a sword. The man, which Xander presumed was probably Lex, was no slouch, but he was clearly facing an opponent who was way out of his league. Despite the man’s best efforts, the woman had complete control of the match, setting an almost brutal pace with her rapid flurries that left the man struggling to keep up.
Grinning widely, Xander turned to Clark, who also caught up in the action. “Bet you tomorrow’s chores that Lex loses,” he said softly enough to not disturb the fencing pair.
“You’re on,” Clark replied instantly, having no doubt in his mind that the figure who was so clearly in control of the match was Lex.
Xander turned back to the match with a smirk, knowing that Clark hadn’t realized that the other fencer was a woman. There was no doubt in his mind that Lex had already lost the match. In moments, he was proven right as the woman’s blade slipped through the man’s defenses and landed the match winning point. The loser whirled around angrily and flung his foil straight at where Xander and Clark stood before noticing them. The Kryptonian quickly hopped backward out of the way while the Thunder God merely twisted his upper body allowing the weapon to pass cleanly through the space he’d occupied mere moments before. The blade struck the wooden door frame with a resounding thud and stuck into the hard wood.
“Alex! Clark!” Lex called out in alarm after ripping off his headgear to reveal that he was, indeed, the one who’d thrown the foil. “Are you both okay? I didn’t see you there!”
“We’re fine,” the Aesir said with a smile, “though if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to kill us…” He chuckled, letting Lex know he was just kidding. “And I go by Xander actually, not Alex.” He tugged the sword from the wall with an easy motion and offered the handle back to the young man. “I hope we aren’t interrupting anything?”
“Not at all,” Lex said with a genuine smile as he grasped the proffered weapon and threw a somewhat disgusted look at his partner. “I think Heidi has sufficiently kicked my ass for one day.” His opponent removed her mask to reveal a beautiful blonde woman who smirked at Lex while looking quite pleased with herself. “So how did you guys get in here anyway?” He asked, turning back to the brothers with a smile as he scooped up a towel and threw it around his neck.
“We squeezed through the bars in the gate when nobody answered,” Clark said with a sidelong glance at Xander.
“What’s the matter didn’t you like the trucks?” the heir to the Luthor fortune asked with a self-effacing smile.
“No, they’re great,” Clark said with a smile, “We just…can’t keep them.”
Lex frowned slightly as he walked toward the door. “You saved my life, I think it’s the least I could do.”
“And we appreciate the thought,” Xander chimed in with a smile. “But it’s really not necessary.”
To both boys’ surprise, Lex grinned and cut deftly to the heart of the matter, “Your dad really doesn’t like me much, does he?” When the teens exchanged guilty looks, he went on, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been bald since I was nine. I’m used to people judging me before they get to know me.”
“It’s not really you,” Clark said, feeling the need to defend his father’s opinion. “Your dad just made a lot of enemies in Smallville…”
“And he figures that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” Lex asked pointedly. “What about you, Clark? Did you fall far from the tree?” When Clark was silent on that point he shifted his gaze to Xander, “How about you Xander?”
“God, I hope so,” the teen replied with a frown. “I don’t ever want to be like my birth parents. I’m just lucky that Clark’s parents took me in.”
A fleeting trace of surprise flickered over Lex’s face. He hadn’t gotten even preliminary reports back on the teens yet, and didn’t realize that the boys weren’t actually brothers. “So the Kents adopted you?” he asked with a smile.
“Both of us actually,” Clark offered. “The difference is that I was three at the time, so they’re the only family I’ve ever really known.”
“Whereas my parents died a couple months ago, and my Aunt Martha and Uncle Jonathan were kind enough to make me part of their family,” Xander said using a neutral expression to hide the guilt and pain that any mention of his parents’ death still brought.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Xander. I remember all too well what it was like to lose a parent. The Kents seem like a great family though,” he said with a sympathetic smile as he guided the boys out into the hall before changing the subject. He wanted to know more, but pressing the boys now seemed like a bad idea. They’d open up to him in their own time and in the meantime, Lex already some of the best private investigators money could buy discreetly looking into their background. “So what do you think of the house?” he asked with a grin.
“It’s great,” Clark answered sincerely, shooting a definite ‘be nice’ look at Xander.
“Yeah? Maybe if you’re dead and in the market for something to haunt,” Lex said with smirk. His words drew a sharp burst of laughter from Xander and a shocked snort from Clark.
“Funny,” the Aesir said with a broad smile, “that’s exactly what I said a few minutes ago.”
The teen’s words coaxed an even broader smirk from Lex. “Great minds think alike,” he said with a chuckle. “My father claims this is the Luthor ancestral home. He had it shipped over from Scotland stone by stone.”
“I remember that,” the Kryptonian said with a smile. “Trucks rolled through town for weeks but no one ever moved in.”
“My father’s never even set foot through the door,” Lex said as they walked into a room that looked as though it were meant to become an office. “He never intended to live here.”
“Then why go to all the trouble of bringing it to Kansas?” Xander asked with a frown.
“Because he could,” the older man answered with a tight smile. “That’s just the kind of man my father is.” Lex’s smile hardened slightly as he thought about his dad. “I’ve spent my entire life trying not to be like my father. Hopefully, you two won’t let other people’s opinions of him stand in the way of our friendship…”
Xander didn’t hesitate before he spoke up. He saw something he recognized in Lex, a kinship born of fathers they couldn’t escape, no matter how much they might have wanted to. “I’m a firm believer in judging a person on their own actions, not on the basis of what their father may or may not have done,” he said with a smile.
“So am I,” Clark added with a grin of his own.
Lex couldn’t help but genuinely smile at the vehemence in both of their voices.
* * * * *
Lucius Payne growled angrily before hurling the sheaf of papers he was holding across the room. In the same motion, he struck out, landing a vicious backhand across his teenaged apprentice’s face, sending her staggering back to crumple to the floor in a heap. “How is it,” he bellowed furiously, “that I can track every movement of some of the most powerful magicians on this plane, but I can’t find the name of the being that violated the Wolfram and Hart offices?”
“I don’t know, Master,” the young witch stammered out. She’d been Payne’s apprentice for five years now, since her 13th birthday, and had never seen the volatile sorcerer this angry before. The girl quietly pressed her fingers against her split lip to stem the flow of scarlet blood. One day, she vowed silently, she would be the master and Lucius would pay for his temper…but this was not that day. She still had far too much to learn.
Payne ignored her, collapsing moodily into his seat, a high backed arm-chair better suited as a throne than as a comfortable place to sit. In all of his years delving into the black arts, he’d never encountered such a closely guarded secret before. The senior partners of Wolfram and Hart had gone to great lengths to conceal the identity of their attacker, placing a powerful and lethal curse on the information. So far, he’d had the pleasure of watching no less than a half-dozen lawyers spontaneously combust while he tortured them for the information.
He’d even gone to the trouble of attempting to create a temporal fold that would allow him to observe the events firsthand as they had happened. Unfortunately, some powerful force had collapsed the fold the instant it formed. The resulting shockwave had killed his most skilled apprentice quite messily and destroyed an entire room of his sanctuary. Whoever was responsible for the attack must have gone to tremendous lengths in order to protect their identity so thoroughly and yet in doing so had demonstrated such power that these protections made no sense. Any lower being that possessed such power wouldn’t hesitate to flaunt it openly.
A niggling thought occurred to the sorcerer. There was yet one potential source of information that he’d not contacted. One lower being who bore no fear of Wolf, Ram or Hart and that could be called on by mortal man. The price of such a thing, however, would be quite high. Mephistopheles was not a being to trifle with, no matter how powerful a sorcerer believed himself to be. Even a single mistake, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, could not only cost the summoner their soul, but could potentially release one of the most fearsome demonic entities ever spawned into the world. In fact, it had taken the direct intervention of the Old Gods to re-imprison the Demon Prince the last time he’d been loosed on the world.
Lucius frowned. Was Lionel’s little game of chicken with Wolfram and Hart really worth the risk of dealing with the self-proclaimed King of Hell? No, it really wasn’t, he decided almost instantly. However, knowing such a closely guarded secret just might be. He toyed with the idea, considering what such knowledge might be worth to the right beings. It was a thought that truly intrigued him.
His apprentice smirked slightly, keeping her head down and her eyes on the floor to avoid her master’s notice. The soft chill that crept into the air seemed to escape the man’s notice, as did the slight deepening of the shadows in the room. Wanda, however, readily recognized the signs. A minor demon had managed to penetrate her master’s wards, an imp or a gremlin perhaps.
Focusing her concentration, she peeled back the veil that prevented mortal eyes from perceiving the spiritual world. Her smirk deepened as she cast a surreptitious glance at her master. It seemed that her master had attracted the attention of someone rather powerful. An imp of temptation rode his left shoulder while a demon of egotism whispered in his ear from its perch on his right shoulder. To someone who dealt with demonic powers that were capable of rending his soul from his body with a thought, it was a combination that amounted to an eventual, messy death sentence.
It seemed that perhaps her master’s time had come after all, only not at her hands.
* * * * *
Xander woke the morning of the big game with a deep sense of uneasy foreboding. Somehow, he just knew that something bad was going to happen before the day was out. Unfortunately, the premonition of impending disaster didn’t include anything to indicate what was going to happen or exactly when and where it would occur. In fact, it was completely worthless beyond the point of setting him on edge.
So it was that a tense and somewhat irritable Aesir drifted into the Torch office after school that day to find Chloe, Clark and Pete already there. The two boys were discussing the rapidly approaching football match with all of the aplomb of true aficionados while Chloe busily worked on something at one of the computers. The look of concentration and focus mixed with an almost exultant joy on her face reminded him of Willow in the throes of a serious challenge.
“Hey gang,” he said after a moment, “what’s up?”
“Oh, hey Xan,” Chloe said looking up with a smile.
His arrival seemed to startle Pete and Clark, causing Pete to look at the clock quickly. “Aww man, I’m late for the pre-game team meeting,” he exclaimed abruptly. “Coach is going to have my head!” He practically leapt to his feet and began gathering his things. “I’ll see you guys at the dance after the game, right?”
“I think I’m gonna sit the dance out,” Clark said with a frown, “but I’ll be at the game. Good luck, Pete.”
“I’ll be there,” Chloe confirmed with a smile and a nod. “Are you the DJ for this one?”
“Nah,” Pete said with a grin as he hefted his athletic bag up on to his shoulder. “They got somebody else since I’m on the team this year and can’t be there early.” He glanced and Xander, his smile never wavering or seeming any less than genuine, “You gonna be there?”
The question, and the sincere, friendly tone in which it was asked, surprised the Thunder God. While Pete had never exactly been hostile toward him over the few days since school started, he hadn’t exactly gone out his way to be friendly either. “I hadn’t thought about it,” he admitted.
“You should go, Xander,” Chloe encouraged with a smile. “It’ll be fun.”
“You have clearly never seen me dance,” the Aesir countered with a goofy grin at the blonde. He turned back to read Pete’s expression only to find that the other boy had a strangely resigned smile on his face.
“You heard the lady,” he said in a serious tone, before a hint of humor crept into his voice. “Besides, we all know you Kent boys couldn’t dance to save your lives.” He shot a grin at Clark who promptly rolled his eyes. “I’ll see you there. Try to talk these lugs into going, Chloe,” Pete said before he hurried out with his bag.
As soon as he was fairly sure Pete was out of earshot, Xander spoke up, “Okay…is it just me or did that seem weird to anyone else?”
“Was what weird?” Clark asked with a confused look.
“Pete encouraging me to go to the dance,” he clarified for his brother’s sake. “I mean, he and I haven’t exactly become fast friends over the past couple of weeks…”
“I think he’s just finally warming up to you, Xander,” Chloe said with a grin. “I mean, you did save his best friend’s life on the first day of school, it might be a little hard to keep resenting you in light of that.”
“I thought you and Pete were getting along fine,” Clark said in surprise. “Did I miss something?”
Biting back his impulse to say something sarcastic that would out Chloe’s feelings for his brother, Xander merely shrugged. “I thought he was less than thrilled with my presence, but maybe I was wrong.” He sat down only to notice Pete’s football helmet still lying under the desk. “Uh oh, Pete forgot his helmet…”
Glancing down, Clark scooped up the item with one hand before standing up. “I’ll run it down to him,” the Kryptonian said with a sly grin at Xander. “You two might want some time alone anyhow.” Before either of the remaining teens could say a word, Clark darted out the door, leaving a Thunder God glaring in his wake.
“What was that all about?” Chloe asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh, nothing,” the Aesir lied quickly. “I think Clark just wants me to smack him around for being a wise-guy.” An uncomfortable silence quickly descended on the small office as the sense of foreboding he’d felt all day abruptly intensified, causing him to stare after his brother for a long moment. “You know, I hate to sound all Han Solo…” he began after a few seconds.
“But you’ve got a really bad feeling about this?” Chloe finished with a frown at the Aesir. “I’ve had this really weird feeling that something bad was going to happen all day, and my stomach just took a nose dive to rest somewhere around my ankles…”
“You too?” Xander asked as he quickly stood up. If it wasn’t just him, then it probably wasn’t his imagination. “I’m going after them, I’ll be back.”
* * * * *
Clark couldn’t exactly super-speed after his friend, not with the number of people who were still around that might notice, so he hurried along at a very human trot. He came through the doors to the school’s parking lot just in time to see Whitney and a handful of the other football players surround Pete. He walked toward the group with a frown, suddenly finding himself concerned about what was about to happen.
“Guess what, Ross?” Whitney asked, with an evil smirk clear in his voice. “You’re this year’s scarecrow.”
“What?!” Pete exclaimed in shock. “Come on, guys! We’re on the same team!”
“That’s just it, Ross,” one of the other players said with a sneer. “You don’t belong on the team. You should have just stuck with your loser friends like Clark and Chloe.”
Pete tried to back away only to have one of the other jocks step in and shove him back toward Whitney. Clark had seen and heard enough at that point.
“Hey!” the Kryptonian shouted angrily as he jogged over at normal human speeds. “Leave him alone!”
Whitney, who’d been facing away from Clark, turned to look at the would-be hero. “Stay out of this Kent,” he spat with a hard glare, “unless you want to take his place.”
Setting his shoulders and matching the older boy’s glare, Clark stopped a few paces away from the quarterback and said coldly, “Back off, Whitney.”
One of the jocks grabbed Pete, keeping the smaller boy from interfering as Whitney stepped up to Clark’s challenge. “Clark, don’t,” Pete shouted, trying to save his friend from the beating that Whitney and his pals were likely to dish out on the severely outnumbered farm-boy.
The Kryptonian knew he was in trouble the moment that Whitney stepped toward him. His legs threatened to buckle as his strength fled painfully and a cold sweat burst out along his forehead. Clark suddenly felt exactly like he always did when he got near Lana. A fact which could only mean one thing: Kryptonite. Automatically, his eyes snapped toward Whitney’s neck. Right there, in the open, he saw Lana’s necklace, the green crystalline poison glinting malevolently in the afternoon light.
Picking up on the younger boy’s sudden uncertainty, Whitney asked him mockingly, “What’s wrong, Clark? Suddenly not so tough are you?” Without warning the quarterback stepped in with a hard right cross to Clark’s jaw, sending the larger boy to the ground hard. “And don’t think I don’t know about your little crush on Lana either, Kent,” he practically spat. “You stay away from my girl or you’ll get a lot worse, got it?”
“See, now you really shouldn’t have done that,” said a hard-edged voice from near the school’s entrance. “Because you just went and pissed me off.”
The group of teens turned to see an angry looking Xander Kent standing there staring at them. Without another word, the God stalked across the intervening distance, his whole body radiating a barely restrained fury.
Whitney slowly backed off a couple of paces in the face of the Aesir’s approach. Something about the boy: the way he moved, the fury etched on his features, or maybe the promise of imminent violence in his eyes, scared the quarterback more deeply than he wanted to ever admit. The movement was just enough to allow Clark to recover.
“You okay, Clark?” Xander asked, never taking his eyes off the blond football player.
“I’m fine, just wasn’t expecting that,” the Kryptonian admitted, knowing that his brother would understand that he meant the Kryptonite, not the punch in the mouth.
“Alright,” the Thunder God said with a cold smile as he rolled his shoulders and tilted his head hard from one side to the other, popping his neck loudly. He coolly stepped between his brother and the Kryptonite wearing bully as he continued, “Now then, who’s first?” He settled into a casual stance, his feet spread comfortably and his arms loose at his sides. The football players eyed him hesitantly, put off by the confidence and anger in the other boy’s expression. “What’s the matter? Not feeling so tough now that you’re dealing with someone who knows how to fight?”
When no one answered beyond the point of a little nervous foot shuffling, Xander spoke again. “Alright then, if you want to get out of this without my boot-print on your ass, you need to let go of Mr. Ross, pile in your little truck and leave. And if I hear so much as a rumor that you picked another scarecrow, I’ll make sure that all of you spend the rest of the football season watching instead of playing.”
“How you figure you’ll do that?” one of the stupider jocks asked.
“It’s kind of hard to play football if you’re in traction,” he said with a cold glare. “Now you’ve got ‘til I count three. One.”
For a long moment nobody moved as Whitney and Xander locked glares in a contest of wills. Internally, the Aesir just grinned. He’d stared down a 200-plus year old master vampire back when he was a mortal boy, dragging Angel out at cross-point to save Buffy. By comparison, cowing a seventeen year old bully was nothing, even when the bully and his friends outnumbered him five to one.
“I know what you’re thinking, Whitney, there’s no way I could take all of you…” he said in a hard tone. “But I swear to you, you won’t walk away from this if you and your friends don’t leave now. Two.”
All of the mortals tensed visibly, waiting to see what happened next. “Let Ross go,” Whitney said calmly after a long moment. “No scarecrow this year.”
Xander smiled tightly, “Smart move.”
“Don’t think this is over, Kent,” the quarterback threatened emptily.
“I wouldn’t think of it,” the God said without the slightest trace of concern. “Now get lost.”
The five football players, less Pete Ross, climbed into Whitney’s truck and drove off, the passengers glaring venomously at the three boys they left behind. After watching the jocks depart, Xander helped his brother to his feet.
“You know,” Pete said a moment later, “you are one damn scary individual when you want to be, Xander.”
“Thanks…I think,” he replied with his usual goofy grin.
“I just can’t believe you threatened to single-handedly put five of our best football players in traction,” Pete continued, turning to stare off after the truck.
Clark and Xander exchanged a quick glance that told the God that his brother was not particularly pleased about that either. “I can’t believe they actually knew what traction was,” the Kryptonian said off-handedly drawing snickers from the other two teens, “but you could get in serious trouble for making threats like that.”
It was Pete who shot a disbelieving look at Clark and countered, “Clark, man, your brother just saved both of us…cut him some slack. Besides, if they try to tell anyone what happened they would end up in even worse trouble for hitting you… not to mention potential charges for attempted kidnapping if my mom caught wind of it.” Pete grinned at Xander before getting serious. “Thanks, Xan, I owe you big time.”
“Nah,” Xander said with a grin of his own. “What’re friends for if not the occasional rescue?”
* * * * *
Jeremy Creek watched from the nearby shadows as one boy managed to stand off the group of football players who were intent on taking a friend of his to be this year’s scarecrow. Deep inside he’d always known that nothing had changed while he was in his coma. The athletes still ruled the school and treated the other students like serfs. It was still only the strong who managed to escape the fate he’d suffered, or those with strong friends.
Jeremy sneered, wondering if the boy would have faced down the football players to save anyone else. Worse yet, there was no doubt in the young man’s mind that even now the group of jocks were grabbing someone else, having been deprived of their first choice of scarecrow. Now he could see that it hadn’t stopped. It would never stop as long as there was a Smallville High School or Smallville High students. The cycle of pain and abuse would just keep going…unless he stopped it. Unless he made them all pay. There was only one way to save future Smallville freshman from being subjected to the kind of torture he’d endured.
He had to kill them all. Every student and every teacher needed to die for what they’d allowed to happen and Jeremy knew just where to start.