Chapter 26 – Before the Dance
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize it, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
Author's Note: Thanks as always for the wonderful feedback I've been receiving and for the recommendations that have managed to land this story on the Top Fics page for most recommendations among crossover fics in any category. It's wonderful to know that so many of you think so highly of my little story. And now, here's the next chapter...
-== Chapter Twenty-Six – Before the Dance ==-
“Why don’t you come up to the barn loft with us and I’ll tell you everything.” Chloe almost couldn’t believe her ears. She had never really expected Clark to agree so readily about telling her everything.
“Are you sure?” she heard herself ask.
“No,” the Kryptonian said honestly. “But Xander’s right, if I can’t trust my friends, who can I trust?” He smiled softly, “I’ve spent my whole life hiding what I could do, Chloe, it’s going to take some time to get used to trusting people with my secret.”
The blonde filed that remark away, her mind racing with the possibilities. If Clark was hiding things his entire life, was he just born different or had he been infected by the meteor rocks as a toddler? She forced her musings aside and focused on the moment. It was only as she followed the Kent brothers into the barn that she realized the boys were still soaking wet from the downpour. “Did you guys want to go dry off and put on some dry clothes first?”
“Probably wouldn’t hurt,” Xander commented glibly, “but neither of us really feel the kind of discomfort from being cold and wet that normal people would.” The Aesir drew up short for a moment as he reached the top of the stairs. “Of course, the furniture isn’t exactly going to appreciate getting wet though…”
“Good point,” Clark agreed a moment later. “Why don’t you go ahead and sit down, Chloe, we’ll be right back.”
She hadn’t even finished nodding when both boys vanished in a blur of motion. “Well, that answers one question,” she said with a grin. It seemed that whatever Clark’s secret abilities were…the same kind of super-speed that Xander possessed was among them. She had only barely sat down when the boys reappeared in a whoosh of displaced air. “Okay, so how fast are you two anyway?”
“I can run a little more than a thousand miles an hour, maybe as much as fifteen hundred if I really push,” Xander said with a grin.
“And I’m a bit faster than Xan,” Clark added with a grin of his own.
“Not that you could tell on anything less than a real distance run,” the Aesir said with a chuckle. “And by distance, I mean some serious mileage before it makes a real difference.”
Chloe boggled at the idea, “You two could practically run from one side of the country to the other in under two hours? That’s incredible!”
“That’s just part of it though Chloe,” the Kryptonian said before glancing to Xander for support. When the Aesir smiled reassuringly back at him, he took a deep breath and blurted out, “I’m not really human. I’m from another planet.”
The reporter’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped open in shock. Of all the possibilities she’d prepared for, this was one that hadn’t even entered her mind. Somehow, though, it figured. Only she would manage to have a crush on two brothers, neither of whom were actually human beings… As that thought registered in her mind, she quickly shoved it aside. Now was so not the time to be getting distracted by her hormones. “Okay,” she confessed with a soft smile, “I definitely didn’t see that one coming. So where are you from then?”
The fact that she didn’t freak out seemed to reassure Clark. He smiled as he began to explain, “I was born on the planet Krypton in another galaxy.”
“The Andromeda galaxy, actually,” Xander interjected with a grin, “Which is something like 3 million light years away, give or take a hundred thousand. Or at least that’s where Green Lantern said Krypton was…Aphrodite was a little vague on the specifics beyond just ‘another galaxy’.”
Chloe shot a look of surprise at Xander who was leaning nearby against a fairly new looking stretch of the railing around the loft stairs. “You mean that Green Lantern knows where Clark is from?”
“Yeah,” the Thunder God answered quickly. “Apparently she could tell neither of us are human. She knew that Clark was Kryptonian and that technically I’m not from this dimension…”
“Do you want to tell this story, Xan?” Clark asked with a mock-glare at his brother.
“Nah, you’re doing fine,” the older teen replied with a smirk, as he moved over and flopped down next to Chloe on the couch. “Go right ahead. I’ll just help… you know, make sure you don’t forget anything important.”
The Kryptonian rolled his eyes before composing himself and looking back at Chloe. “My parents sent me to Earth because Krypton was dying. The planet blew up right after they launched my ship. I landed on Earth during the meteor shower. In fact, the meteors that hit Smallville were fragments of Krypton that were brought here by the wormhole my ship created to come here.”
“Wow,” she said after a moment of silence while the story really sank in. “I can see why you kept this a secret for so long…”
“Actually, in Clark’s defense, he didn’t even learn he was from another planet until the day that I told you my secret Chloe,” Xander said with a half-smile. “Mom and Dad kept it a secret, even from him. And he only learned about Krypton and its fate a few days ago…after Lex hit us both with his Porsche.”
At Chloe’s questioning glance, Clark nodded a confirmation. “Lex hit you both with his car?” the reporter asked incredulously.
“At about 90 miles an hour or so,” Clark said with a smile of his own.
“And it didn’t hurt you?” the shock in her voice was clear as day.
“Oh no, it definitely hurt. I was bruised up for a few hours afterward,” the Kryptonian replied teasingly. “But it didn’t do any serious damage, which was a big surprise to both of us. It was later that night, after Xander tossed me on my butt for being stupid, that Aphrodite dropped by and told us about Krypton and why I have the powers I have.”
“Yeah, it turns out that Kryptonians get super-powers as their bodies absorb energy from a yellow sun,” the Aesir added before clarifying, “Krypton orbited a red sun.”
“So what powers do you have, Clark?” she asked curiously. “I mean besides the super-speed and being hard to hurt.”
“I’m almost as strong as Xander and eventually I’ll be just about as hard to hurt as he is, but I’m not quite there yet,” he answered with a grin. “Apparently though, as I continue to mature physically my body will store more and more of the sun’s energy and I’ll develop other abilities too…we’re just not entirely sure what they’ll be yet.”
“So can you fly too?” she asked with a grin.
“No!” Clark said emphatically.
“Yes, he can,” Xander countered automatically, “or rather he could if he’d just get over being afraid of heights.” The Aesir shot a quick grin at Chloe. “So far he’s only managed to do it in his sleep. He woke up and fell from the ceiling…and broke his bed when he landed on it.”
“At least I’m not the one who annihilated a tree with a rock because someone startled him,” Clark shot back with a smug grin. “Or who shoved a fence post all the way into the ground when he misjudged his strength…”
Chloe couldn’t help but laugh as the conversation quickly degenerated into back and forth attempts by the brothers to embarrass one another while regaling her with tales of their super-powered mishaps. Her best friends, the two men she had crushes on, were an alien and a God…she couldn’t help but wonder what else life had in store for them.
* * * * *
Xander couldn’t have been any more pleased with the way his brother opened up and told Chloe everything. He’d been pretty confident that Chloe’s easy acceptance of what he was and where he was from would help put many of Clark’s issues to rest. Life was far too hard to go through it alone and miserable the way the Kryptonian had seemed intent on doing. Hopefully now he’d see that he didn’t have to keep secrets from the people who loved him. Or at least, he might, if Pete’s eventual reaction to both Clark and Xander’s secrets didn’t screw things up.
The Aesir was still more than a little puzzled by Pete’s reaction to the revelations about Sunnydale. That hadn’t been at all what he’d expected: disbelief, shock, denial…those responses he could have understood, but that almost emotionless reaction just seemed out of place. Worse yet, the strange reaction cast serious doubts on the boy’s ability to accept the truth about Clark and Xander’s powers when the time came.
The Thunder God suddenly realized that the loft had fallen quiet and that both Clark and Chloe were staring at him. “Sorry,” he said forcing a quick grin. “What did I miss?’”
“What’s wrong Xan?” Clark asked with concern clear in his voice.
“Nothing,” the Aesir tried to lie, only to be immediately confronted with disbelieving looks from his brother and Chloe. “Alright,” he conceded, “I was just wondering about Pete took the news when I told him the truth about Sunnydale. I’ve never seen anybody react like that. I mean, is it such a big stretch from meteor mutants to vampires and demons?”
Before either of the other teens could answer, a familiar male voice spoke up from the top of the loft’s landing. “It is for a young man who’s never been exposed to the supernatural, like your friend.”
Xander turned toward the landing and half-frowned at the man who’d spoken, forgetting for a moment that neither his brother nor Chloe had met the person standing there. “I don’t get it though, Hermes. I mean, alright so Mom, Dad, and Clark saw the demons before I told them the truth, but Chloe was never exposed to the supernatural and she could deal with it…”
“Indeed she could,” Hermes confirmed with a grin. “In fact, she could tell something strange was going on in Sunnydale despite the very powerful enchantments meant to obfuscate that fact. Even more interesting, she’s here and yet so am I…what does that tell you about Ms Sullivan?”
“That Chloe’s not an ordinary mortal,” Clark said before anyone else could answer. Everyone’s eyes turned to him almost instantly. “If you’re one of Xander’s cousins, you’re only able to appear to extraordinary mortals under certain circumstances… or at least that was what Aphrodite said.”
“Very Good, Kal-El,” the Olympian said with a smile. “You’re exactly right, but forgive my manners, introductions are in order. I am Hermes of Olympus, at your service.” He bowed deeply with a flourish. “And Aphrodite was quite correct, for now we can only appear to extraordinary mortals who either believe that the Old Gods exist or to whom Xander has revealed his secret. Those were the ‘certain circumstances’ to which she referred, by the way.”
“What do you mean by ‘extraordinary mortals’?” Chloe asked with a curious look.
“I mean precisely what I said: ‘extraordinary mortals’. Mortals who are not mere run of the mill human beings,” the God of Messengers smirked slightly. “But to get back on the topic of your friend Mr. Ross, he is a perfectly normal human being who’s never been touched by the supernatural. By the time you speak with him again, he’ll have completely repressed and rationalized away the entire conversation. He won’t recall any mention of vampires, demons, or the mouth of Hell.”
“Why?” Xander cut in abruptly. “I thought my presence would prevent that sort of generalized magic from affecting my friends?”
“It’s not actually magick, Xander,” Hermes explained. “It’s the results of a divine decree by the Powers that Be that has been in place for several centuries. Normal human beings are protected from knowledge about the supernatural except under very specific circumstances. As long as the Powers are the principal divinities in this reality, that fact cannot be changed.”
“So why didn’t Mom and Dad repress the discussion when I told them about Sunnydale?” the Thunder God asked.
“First hand exposure to the supernatural followed by being told the truth about it by someone else who knows will remove the protection afforded by the Powers’ decree,” the Olympian explained carefully. “Once that’s done, the person’s own rational mind has to deal with the knowledge and many people would still manage to repress it or rationalize it away… It’s just human nature.”
“Okay, but that still doesn’t explain what makes me ‘extraordinary’,” Chloe said with a raised eyebrow. “I never had any encounters with the supernatural before Xander explained everything to me…in fact, I figured out most of the truth before he explained it me.”
“Why so you did!” the God replied with a grin. “So, are you extraordinary because you could pierce the veil and find the truth on your own, or could you pierce the veil and find the truth on your own because you’re extraordinary?”
“Does it really matter?” Clark asked with a confused with a look. “Isn’t the end result the same?”
“No, it’s not,” Chloe said with a frown of her own. “If I’m extraordinary because I could see the truth, then that’s the whole story. If I could see the truth because I’m extraordinary, then that would mean that there’s something else different about me…something else that makes me not a ‘normal’ human. So which is it?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that, Chloe,” Hermes said with a soft smile. “You’ll have to figure that out on your own. Not that I expect it will be particularly troublesome for you.”
“Okay, while I appreciate you preparing us for the next time we see Pete, and dropping another interesting but cryptic bit of a mystery in our laps in the process,” the Thunder God cut in with a frown, “Why are you actually here, cousin?”
“You know, Xander, we really need to work on these trust issues you have with your Olympian family,” the God of Thieves said with a smirk.
“So you’re telling me you’re just here to drop in and say ‘hi’?” the Aesir asked pointedly.
“No, of course not,” Hermes replied with a grin, “but that’s hardly the point. I’m actually here to bring you something you might need, given your heroic tendencies. A gift of sorts…”
“Of sorts?” Chloe asked before anyone else could say anything.
“Well, technically it already belongs to Xander, since it belonged to Thor and has been lying around unused in Thor’s Olympian palace since before he was banished,” the Olympian explained with a chuckle. “Lady Athena bade me bring it to him as she thought he would find it useful.” The God held out his hand to Xander and a plain wooden box appeared on it. “I present to you, the Armor of Thor.”
Xander immediately quirked an eyebrow as he stared at the tiny box. “If there’s a suit of armor in there, I’m afraid it’s a bit small for me,” he said with a wicked smirk.
“Oh, for the love of Hera! You’re a God, Xander; could you try thinking like one occasionally? ” Hermes exclaimed with a dramatic roll of his eyes. He opened the box and withdrew a small, intricately etched steel cuff. “It’s magickal, of course, like your hammer. Put it on and will it to activate.” He tossed it to the Thunder God who caught it easily.
“Wait a second,” Clark said with a frown. “What do you mean? Xander’s an Aesir not a God…”
Hermes fixed Xander with a questioning glance which was met by a shrug. “I might’ve kind of downplayed that aspect of things when I explained it…” he said by way of explanation.
“Clark,” Chloe began with an embarrassed smile, “The Aesir were worshipped as Gods by various Viking tribes for thousands of years… all of the Aesir are Gods, including Xander.”
Hermes gave Chloe a strangely impressed look. “Very impressive, Chloe, and you’re quite correct.” He turned his gaze on Clark before explaining, “As the heir to Thor’s power, both Odin and Zeus have declared that Xander and Thor are in fact the same being from a metaphysical standpoint. Since Thor is still worshipped to this very day by an entire faith, Xander is most assuredly an actual God.”
Xander shot his brother a pained look, “I’m sorry that I sort of glossed over that part, Clark, but that’s one of those things I don’t really feel right talking about. I mean, I’m still coming to terms with it, how can I expect other people to take it?”
“And he didn’t actually tell me either Clark. He just told me that he was an Aesir and the heir to Thor’s power…I figured out the part where he was a God on my own.” Chloe explained quickly.
“It’s only natural that you didn’t work that out, Kal-El, it’s difficult for most mortals to accept the fact that a member of your family is in fact a deity,” the Olympian said after a moment.
“I…knew,” the Kryptonian admitted after a moment of consideration. “I just hadn’t consciously realized it I guess. It sort of surprised me to hear it said so bluntly.”
“So we’re okay, Clark?” Xander asked.
“We’re fine, Xander,” Clark replied with a grin.
Nodding, the Aesir turned his attention to the cuff he was holding in his hand. It had sprung open when he caught it, folding outward on a previously invisible hinge. Eying it cautiously, he closed the cuff around his left wrist. It sealed shut with a snap and Xander felt a tingle of power run up his arm for a moment. With a brief glance at Chloe and Clark, he willed the artifact to activate.
* * * * *
Whitney couldn’t help but smile as Sean and the other boys tied Greg to the wooden frame on the post. They’d already stripped the boy to his boxers and once he was tied in place, Whitney would paint the traditional Smallville ‘S’ on his chest. The only difference would be that Greg would have a lot harder time getting this paint off, since they were using heavy duty enamel paint in the brightest red they could find. It had been intended to stand out better against Pete’s darker skin and to linger for a while.
Greg had struggled quite a bit through the process, screaming and shouting to the point where they’d gagged the freshman just so they wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore. The quarterback was actually almost impressed by it all. He hadn’t thought that the bug-collecting geek had it in him to put up that much of a fight. Not that it had actually helped him any. There was nothing on Earth that could help him now.
* * * * *
Chloe looked away as a brilliant flash of light erupted from Xander. As her vision cleared, she turned back to gape in awe at the Thunder God. Xander had undergone an incredible physical transformation that had added every bit of six inches to his height and left him with a physique that professional body builders would envy. His normal clothing had been replaced by thick, dark colored leathers.
His upper body was covered by what appeared to be a heavy leather vest, studded with numerous, wide rivets of the same bluish metal that made up his hammer. The vest flared out to cover his shoulders and thick plates of silvery metal reinforced the flares. His heavily muscled arms were bare but for the wide, silvery metal bracers that encircled his wrists and extended more than half-way up his forearm. A wide leather belt wrapped around his waist, reinforced by interlocking metal bands, and Mjolnir hung easily at his side from it. The pants were also made of the same dark leather as the vest with thick metal plates affixed to guard the fronts of his thighs and shins above his high leather boots. The boots where made of more typical looking brown leather, overlaid with a series of wide, silvery metal bands that wrapped around his calves from the tops of the boots to just above his ankles.
Finally, her eyes snapped up to his face. On his head he wore a silvery, winged, Viking helmet that included a three-quarter face-guard, leaving only his mouth and chin exposed. If she hadn’t actually witnessed the transformation, she’d have never realized that the…being standing before her was, in fact, Xander Kent. She’d have had no difficulty whatsoever believing that this man was a God, however. His entire being, his very presence spoke of power.
* * * * *
The Thunder God spent a long moment staring down at himself in shock. Despite the rather obvious physical changes that had taken place when he activated the armor, he didn’t really feel any different. He definitely couldn’t deny that he now looked the part of a Viking Warrior-God. He twisted and moved a bit, noticing that the armor didn’t impede his movements in the least. He was also surprised to notice that the armor included the Hands of Thor, despite the fact that he hadn’t been wearing them when he activated it.
It was only a few moments later, when he looked at Clark and realized he didn’t have to look up to meet his brother’s eyes, that Xander realized that he’d gotten taller as well. He was at least an inch or two taller than the Kryptonian now, a fact that brought a wide grin to his face. “Ha!” he gloated gleefully. “I’m finally taller than my little brother.” As he spoke, he realized that his voice had been altered by the transformation as well. It was suddenly deeper and resonated with a kind of other-worldly power that seemed to proclaim his divine nature in its very pitch and timbre.
“This is a slight variation on the form that Thor typically used when appearing to his followers,” Hermes finally said, breaking the shocked silence. “As long as you don’t take off the helmet and nobody sees you transform, no one will be able to figure out it’s you under there, Xander.” The Olympian chuckled. “Given your tendency to want to play the hero, this will at least help you keep your secret safe.”
Grinning widely, the Aesir reached up and took off the helmet before asking, “So I at least got to keep my own face?” To his surprise, his voice was also returned to normal by doffing the helmet.
“Of course,” the God of Thieves said with a grin. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t need the face guard.”
“Wow,” Chloe finally said. “So that’s more or less what Thor looked like? No wonder people worshipped him…”
“More or less,” the Messenger confirmed with a nod. “Thor was a little taller, closer to seven foot than six and a half, his hair was longer and shaggier, and he always wore a beard. But any of Thor’s current worshippers will immediately recognize this form as Thor, which was the real purpose behind the armor in the first place.”
“So, this form is meant to use Xander’s desire to help people to strengthen the faith of his worshippers?” Clark asked with a frown.
“No,” Hermes countered with a chuckle. “The Aesir are all capable of controlling every part of their appearance down to the most miniscule of details. Because of that, most of them used magickal items like this one to fix a consistent appearance for dealing with their worshippers, a single form that their mortal followers would always recognize.”
Before he could say anything else, a strange feeling overwhelmed Xander. He frowned slightly, closing his eyes and trying to pinpoint the cause of the sensation. In his mind, he saw Whitney watching as his pals tied a young man that the Aesir recognized from one of his classes to a wooden cross in a cornfield.
“Son of a bitch!” the God of Thunder exclaimed angrily as his eyes snapped open, drawing shocked looks from Chloe and Xander.
“Well, that’s my cue to leave,” the Olympian said with a grin, knowing precisely what had transpired. “Have fun smiting the football players.” Before anyone could say another word, Hermes vanished.
“What is it Xander?” Chloe asked quickly, worried by Hermes’ parting words.
“Whitney and his minions picked another scarecrow!” He practically spat as he shoved the helmet back on his head. “I’m so gonna kick their asses for this.”
“Wait Xan!” Clark called out as Xander stormed down the stairs. “Putting them in the hospital won’t stop the team from picking another scarecrow next year!”
“So what am I supposed to do, Clark?” the Aesir snapped back. “Let them get away with it? Let them prove Jeremy right? Prove that nothing ever changes?”
“No,” Chloe said with a sudden, wide smile as she got an idea. “I know exactly how to put a stop to this barbaric little tradition once and for all…”
* * * * *
Mere moments later, two inhumanly fast blurs raced away from the Kent Farm, followed quickly by a smiling blonde girl who climbed into her car and drove off. As he watched invisibly from nearby, Hermes couldn’t help but smile. He had no doubt that the Smallville football team was about to learn a very valuable lesson about what happens when you anger a God.