Chapter 27 – Before the Dance 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: Just to make sure it's clear, and time someone isn't speaking English, such as later in this chapter, the text will be marked with *'s: "*like this, for example*". What language they're speaking will be stated explicitly somewhere in there as well. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the chapter...
-== Chapter Twenty-Seven – Before the Dance II ==-
It wasn’t actually that difficult to find Whitney and his friends, despite the dozens of square miles of cornfields that surrounded Smallville. Somehow, Xander just knew where they were. Their presence, their open defiance of his order not to choose a scarecrow, stood out like a beacon in his mind. The Aesir slid to a stop just behind Whitney’s pick-up truck.
“Hurry up, Whitney!” he heard one of the jocks call from a short distance away in the cornfield. “If we’re late getting on the field for warm-ups, Coach Walt will have our heads, scarecrow or no scarecrow.”
“Sean, man, chill already!” he heard another jock counter. “We’ve got a half-hour before warm-ups and it’s only a ten-minute drive back to the school. We’ve got plenty of time.”
The Thunder God frowned slightly. In order for Chloe’s plan to have maximum effect, he needed to keep the jocks busy for a while, at least until the game started in an hour or so. Of course, there was nothing to say that they couldn’t be unconscious or tied up for most of that either…but first he needed a distraction or two.
A quick glance in the truck’s cab gave Xander a wonderful opportunity, seeing as Whitney had left his car keys in the ignition. Moving quietly, he opened the door, used his super-speed to grab the keys before the door chime could sound and quietly shut the door once more. The Aesir very carefully moved a short distance away before slipping into the cornfield to avoid notice. While his armored form would prevent him from being identified easily when it came time to confront these guys, he wasn’t quite ready to go there just yet. He watched unobserved, waiting for the boys to be distracted long enough for him to get the scarecrow out of there and then come back for the finale.
Sure enough, the football players came back to the truck mere moments later and Xander slipped off to free the real victim in this incident. He chuckled quietly at the sounds of the argument that erupted when the keys turned out to be missing. When the God entered the small clearing that surrounded the scarecrow, he immediately noticed the fear in Greg’s eyes. Whitney and his friends had gone so far as to leave the boy tied to the pole with the gag still in his mouth.
Moving quickly, but not at super-speed, Xander crossed to the boy’s side and whispered, “It’s okay, I’m a friend. I’m here to help.” Of course, it might have been more reassuring if his voice didn’t sound quite so…inhuman, but the unfortunate teen’s struggles did calm somewhat as a result.
The Thunder God worked quickly to untie the boy and help him down. As the boy worked to untie the gag, Xander spoke again, “I can get you out of here, but you have to trust me.”
“Who are you?” Greg hissed quietly after removing the gag.
“You can call me Thor,” the Aesir replied quickly. “Grab your clothes, we need to go now. They’re coming back.”
The boy had no sooner grabbed his clothes and shoes from the ground when Xander scooped him up and leapt away from the clearing. It wasn’t as precise or controlled as flying would have been, but he also didn’t have to worry about trying to hold on to the terrified teen and his hammer at the same time either. They landed easily in a wide, clear field well over a mile from where they had started.
“What the hell are you?” the boy asked in shock as he stumbled away from Xander as quickly as he could.
“What I am doesn’t matter right now,” the God answered quickly. “Do you know this place?”
“Yeah, we’re not far from where Whitney and his goons grabbed me,” Greg said after looking around a little.
“Can you get home from here?” the Aesir asked bluntly.
“Yeah, my car’s right over there,” the teen pointed toward a nearby copse of trees with a frown. “Why are you doing this? Why did you help me?”
“Because it’s time that Whitney and the others like him learn the price of tormenting others,” Xander said coldly before blurring back off toward the targets of his ire.
The five athletes were standing around the now empty scarecrow post, staring at it in shock when Xander arrived. They were so dumbfounded by Greg’s apparent escape that they didn’t notice when the Aesir approached from behind the boys.
“Where the hell did Arkin go?” Whitney asked loudly a moment later. “How did the little freak get away?”
Seeing a perfect opportunity, Xander spoke up angrily, “I set him free and took him to safety.”
The jocks turned quickly and were shocked by what they found. The fact that Xander appeared to have materialized from thin air while their backs were turned was certainly an intimidating prospect, especially given just how big his armored and helmed form really was. He strode forward a few paces with a wicked grin, stopping just out of arm’s reach.
“Who the fuck are you?” Sean managed to stammer out as the rest of his compatriots, including Whitney, stood by dumbstruck.
“I am Thor, the God of Thunder,” he declared with a wicked smirk. “And if you beg convincingly enough, perhaps I will spare you the punishment you have so richly earned.”
“Hold on now,” Whitney said, finally shaken from his awed stupor by the blatant threat in Xander’s voice. “We haven’t done anything to you…”
“Of course you haven’t,” Xander replied with a disgusted look. “You are far too weak and cowardly to challenge the likes of me. Instead, you choose to prey on those you don’t believe can defend themselves. You torment the weak as a point of pride,” he spat the words as though they tasted foul in his mouth. “Men are given strength to protect those who are weaker than themselves, not to hurt and terrorize them. It is time you learned what it is to know the fear of your betters.”
The Aesir grinned wickedly as he raised his hammer to point at the five boys, “This will be your last and only warning. The next time a scarecrow is chosen and placed…the price of defiance will be paid in blood and pain.”
Five sparks of electricity arced off the hammer, one striking each of the athletes. The bolts were small, carrying too little power to do serious damage. However, the sparks were powered by divine intent, racing painlessly across the boys’ nervous systems. The charges interrupted key neural pathways, effectively stalling out certain biological processes needed to maintain consciousness. Instantly, all five boys slumped to the ground as though they simply fell asleep.
“Better than a stun gun,” Xander said with a chuckle, returning the hammer to his belt.
* * * * *
From his vantage point near the school, Clark waited patiently for the sounds of the opening kick-off. Given that Whitney’s truck had never returned to the school and the fact that Xander hadn’t come back yet, he could only assume that everything was going according to plan so far. The Kryptonian wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of what the three of them were about to do, but it was definitely better than letting his brother put the five boys in the hospital after a severe beating. Plus, Chloe’s plan had the added advantage of making the whole scarecrow tradition uncomfortably public, hopefully putting a stop to it once and for all.
The part where it also publicly humiliated the worst bullies at Smallville High was just an added bonus, really. It was a bit of poetic justice that no small few of their fellow ‘crows’ would undoubtedly appreciate, especially when Chloe splashed pictures of it, along with a detailed article about the scarecrow tradition, across the front page of the Torch. As if on cue, Chloe’s car pulled up and parked in one of the school’s few remaining empty spaces. It honestly looked like most of Smallville had turned out for the first game of the season, a fact that would make their plan that much more effective. A moment later she joined Clark, carrying a heavy vinyl banner she’d acquired somewhere and converted to their cause.
A sudden cheer rose up from the stands, announcing that the game had begun. Taking it as their cue to get started, Clark blurred into motion. He quickly planted the five wooden scarecrow posts he’d assembled in the front lawn of the high school, near the main road through town. Then he and Chloe quickly and carefully stretched the banner across the bases of the posts and tied it securely in place. The hastily painted red letters read quite clearly ‘No more scarecrows!’ which was precisely the message they hoped to get across with this little exercise. Now all they needed was for Xander to show up.
A few long, nervous minutes later, the Aesir arrived at super-speed…carrying Whitney’s truck. Once he carefully set down the vehicle, Xander willed himself back to his normal appearance, deactivating the armor. “Come on,” he called quickly to his partners in crime as he waved Clark and Chloe over to join him.
“You know,” Chloe said with a wry grin, “The idea had been for you to drive the truck…not carry it.”
“Psh, it was faster this way,” Xander countered with a grin. “Besides, this way there’s no prints on the steering wheel on the off chance the local cops actually investigate this.” As Clark stepped closer, the Thunder God instantly realized his mistake. The Kryptonian staggered back from the vehicle looking suddenly, violently ill. “Damn, I forgot Whitney was wearing that chunk of Kryptonite.”
“What’s wrong?” Chloe asked quickly, shocked by Clark’s sudden illness and equally fast recovery as he staggered away from the truck.
“It’s Kryptonite,” Clark explained as Xander rummaged around in the bed of the truck for a moment. “The green crystals in the meteor rocks make me sick and drain my powers. Aphrodite said it was a side-effect of the catastrophe that caused Krypton to explode.”
“Got it,” Xander exclaimed with a grin, holding up Lana’s necklace by the now broken chain.
“What are you going to do with it?” Chloe asked.
“Get rid of it, permanently,” the Thunder God replied.
“You can’t do that!” The Kryptonian exclaimed, causing both Xander and Chloe to look at him suddenly. “We should give it back to Lana, it means a lot to her.”
“No,” the Aesir said bluntly. “This thing can kill you, Clark. Not to mention the weird effects that Kryptonite has had on people like Jeremy and Eric. It’s too dangerous to give it back.” Without allowing any more time for arguments, Xander drew back his hand and flung the necklace almost straight up with all of his considerable strength. The tiny missile raced out through the atmosphere, generating incredible friction from its velocity. The intense heat rapidly burned away the thin gold chain and fittings and turned the stone a jet black color before it escaped the atmosphere.
“Wow,” Chloe said in an awed tone. “Where do you think it’ll come down?”
“Hopefully somewhere on another planet,” Xander said with a grin. “Now let’s scarecrow these guys up before anyone sees us.” He pointedly ignored the angry scowl that was etched on Clark’s face as he hauled up one of the larger jocks and began to strip the boy down to his boxers. It was his job as the big brother to protect Clark, even if that meant protecting him from his own boy-scout tendencies.
* * * * *
The trio of teens grinned widely as they admired their handiwork from the opposite side of the street. The scarecrows hadn’t woken up from their little nap until all three of the responsible parties were completely across the street, a fact that should not be construed as coincidental in any way since that’s when Xander wanted them to come to. Chloe had gleefully taken several photos of the still struggling teens for the paper as soon as they were awake. They had even taken a page from Whitney’s book and securely gagged all five boys to ensure that they couldn’t call for help and possibly be set free prematurely. Xander had also taken it upon himself to lock all of the boy’s clothing, along with Whitney’s car keys, in the cab of Whitney’s truck. After all, the real objective here was public humiliation, so every little bit counted.
“So, you think they’ll actually get the message and stop this little tradition of theirs?” Clark asked as they turned to walk away.
“I certainly hope so,” Xander said with a frown. “Otherwise, we’ll have to do this all over again next year.”
“Color me skeptical,” Chloe said with a frown of her own. “But I can’t help but wonder where a bunch of high school jocks got the idea that essentially crucifying a freshman every year was a good idea, let alone how they kept it a secret for so long.”
Xander’s frowned deepened into scowl territory. “That’s a really good point, Chloe. Something about this whole thing does seem a little off now that you mention it…”
“It does seem a little odd, doesn’t it?” Clark agreed, looking at Chloe and Xander for a moment. “How long do you think this has been going on?”
“Well, we know it’s been going on for at least eleven years because of Jeremy,” the reporter pointed out. “There’s no way to know beyond that without figuring out who the previous scarecrows were…”
“What if there is something more to it though?” the Kryptonian asked. “How do we figure it out and deal with it?”
“We do some research into the ritual itself,” the Aesir said flatly. “Though I’m not sure how much good it’ll do us with our limited resources. Sooner or later, I’m sure we’ll either figure it out or something else will happen to point us in the right direction.”
“So I’m guessing this hero gig is gonna be a full time thing then?” Chloe asked with a questioning glance at Xander.
“Only when it has to be, Chloe,” the Thunder God replied with a grin. “Only when it has to be… Hey, we’ve got some time to kill before the dance, let’s grab a mocha or something?” he suggested, noticing they were headed toward the town’s only coffee shop.
* * * * *
Midori frowned as she looked around the only coffee shop in Smallville. It reminded her of any number of trendy little cafés she’d been to in Gotham…only less trendy. In fact, on a scale of one to lame, this place rated a really lame. The only redeeming quality it had was the fact that it did serve a decent latte, it was far from spectacular, but it was better than she’d expected.
The place was busier than she’d expected considering how crowded the football stadium seemed to be, but it was still mostly dead. Unfortunately, the handful of customers they did have at the moment were all other teens who had looked at her the way they would look at something nasty on the bottoms of their stylish, yet affordable, boots. Not that their reactions particularly bothered her. She was quite happy with being herself and with how she was dressed and anyone who had a problem with it could kiss her ass. The only downside she could see was the fact that there would be a noteworthy lack of anything resembling interesting conversation in her future as a result.
She sighed and wondered if there was anywhere else she might be able to go to kill time until the dance started. At least there she’d have a chance to indulge in some quality people watching and mocking and laughing even if she didn’t manage to find the guys from earlier the way she hoped. In her experience, dances were almost always entertaining, even if you went alone. However, since she couldn’t think of anything better to do, she took her latte to a table in the back that afforded a good view of the entire café and made people uncomfortable by staring as she sipped her latte.
At the sound of the shop door opening, Midori’s eyes automatically flicked to the entrance. What she saw there brought the first genuine smile of the evening to her lips. The two hot guys she’d helped against the metahuman earlier walked in with a sexy blonde girl she hadn’t seen before. The trio didn’t appear to notice her right away, giving her a chance to watch them for a moment. It was pretty obvious that all three of them were good friends, but she couldn’t tell if the blonde was dating either, or even both, of the boys. Not that a little harmless flirting wouldn’t provide an answer to that question in fairly short order. The real question was whether she should flirt with the girl to see which of the guys got jealous, flirt with the both of the guys to see which one the girl got jealous over, or flirt with all three of them and see where it got her? After all, she certainly wouldn’t mind playing a little tonsil hockey, at the very least, with any of them.
That thought abruptly brought Midori up short. There had been few enough people that she had been attracted to like that back in Gotham City. The handful of guys and girls she’d dated there had all been long-time friends, people she was attracted to because of who they were more than because they were just sexy. In fact, this was the first time she could recall having ever seriously considered flirting with someone, let alone three different someones, that she didn’t even know. And that wasn’t even taking into account the fact that neither of the guys were even human…or the question of whether they’d want anything to do with her out of uniform.
The moment of truth came as the Aesir’s eyes suddenly slid over the crowd as though he was looking for something. His eyes immediately settled on her and a flash of recognition passed over his face, followed by a wide smile. He said something to his friends and suddenly there were three sets of eyes fixed on her, making her smile nervously.
‘I thought you said no one would recognize me out of uniform?’ she thought abruptly at her power ring, ‘Even without a mask?’
‘Negative,’ the ring AI replied. ‘The perception distorting illusion that the ring generates when you’re in uniform on your home-world only affects most members of your own species. All non-humans and about one-half of one percent of humans or metahumans are immune to the effect.’
As the trio approached her friendly smiles on their faces, Midori groaned inwardly. So much for her secret identity…
* * * * *
As Clark, Chloe and Xander walked toward the Beanery, the conversation quickly turned from the scarecrows to how to deal with Pete’s inability to know the truth about Sunnydale. “I could bring a vampire to Smallville and stake it in front of him,” Xander suggested. “That’d break the protection and give him proof all at once.”
“Or maybe you two could just tell the truth about what you are and what you can do…then the Sunnydale explanation should resolve itself seeing as you’re a God and all,” Chloe countered.
Clark and Xander exchanged a glance and the Aesir shrugged. “I’m game for it if Clark is. It would definitely make things less awkward…” he agreed quickly.
“Unless Pete freaks out and can’t handle that truth either,” the Kryptonian pointed out. “There’s no guarantee that he won’t tell everyone about us if that happens…”
“Clark, Aphrodite said you need to start trusting your friends more,” the Thunder God said gently. “Maybe she’s right.”
“I hate to play devil’s advocate,” Chloe interjected, “but you’re hardly the poster child for trusting your cousins…at least not the ones from Olympus, Xan.”
The younger Kent stopped and looked at Xander for a moment, drawing the entire group to a halt. “Maybe we should just wait and see what happens? Not tell him anything and not do anything about it until we have to?”
“What do you think, Chloe?” the Aesir asked with a sigh.
“I don’t like the idea of lying to Pete or keeping secrets from him, but it might be for the best…at least for now,” she conceded after a few moments of consideration. “But sooner or later you’re going to have to trust him or risk losing his friendship altogether.”
“If this is how you really want to handle it, I’ll play along,” Xander said reluctantly, “but I think this is a bad idea…”
“Come on, Xan,” Clark said with a teasing smile as he changed the subject. “It couldn’t be any worse than hitting an electrically charged meteor freak with a bolt of lightning…”
Chloe looked at Xander with a raised eyebrow as they resumed walking. He merely shrugged in response, “How was I supposed to know he could absorb it? Besides, I only did it once…”
The trio were still chuckling when they entered the Beanery a few moments later. The coffee shop wasn’t overly crowded, which wasn’t surprising considering the football game was well underway, but Xander almost instantly felt like someone was watching them. He quickly surveyed the room, looking for the source of the feeling. It didn’t take long at all to notice her, and he recognized her at once. It certainly wasn’t like she was making a great effort to blend in, with her goth-punk outfit and green streaked hair.
“She’s here,” he said just loudly enough for Clark and Chloe to hear him.
“Who’s here?” Chloe asked as she and the Kryptonian followed Xander’s gaze to spot the girl in question. She immediately recognized the girl from the brief glimpse she’d caught when Green Lantern flew past the school. “Oh!”
“We should go talk to her,” Clark suggested, “Make sure that we aren’t going to have to worry about…our secrets.”
“That’s one thing I don’t think you’ll exactly have to worry about, Clark,” the blonde immediately pointed out. “It’s mutually assured destruction. She tells your secrets, you tell hers, everybody loses.”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed with a grin, “But she also might be a valuable ally the next time a meteor freak comes calling.” He sauntered casually through the seating area to where the girl sat, knowing that Chloe and Clark wouldn’t be far behind. “Fancy meeting you here,” he said with one of his trademark goofy grins. “I guess it’s a small town after all…”
Midori couldn’t help but snicker. “Yeah, it is. You guys don’t even have a Starbucks.”
“Mind if we join you?” Chloe asked before Xander could say anything else.
“Feel free,” Midori said with a genuine smile. ‘Anything I should know about her?’ she immediately asked her power ring.
‘Sensor scans are indeterminate,’ the ring AI responded quickly. ‘Life signs indicate human or near-human readings in most areas. Brain and neurological activity, however, are well beyond the normal limits for your species. Subject could be a metahuman, a more highly evolved form of the human species, or a hybrid of human and non-human species.’
After the three teens took their seats, the Aesir spoke up again, “I guess we should make with proper introductions this time… I’m Xander Kent, this is my brother Clark, and one of our best friends, Chloe Sullivan.”
“I’m Midori, Satou Midori,” she answered with a smile.
The instant she said the name, something odd happened in Xander’s brain. It felt as though a part of his mind that had been asleep suddenly woke up. It automatically supplied him with the knowledge that the word ‘midori’ was Japanese and meant ‘green’. He couldn’t stop the inevitable snort of laughter that escaped as the irony of Green Lantern’s name being ‘green’ hit him.
“Sorry,” he said quickly before anyone could be offended. “All things considered, I just thought it was funny that you of all people would be named ‘green’…”
“*You speak Japanese?*” she asked in a surprised voice, switching to the language in question.
“*Uh, I guess I do…or at least I do now,*” the Aesir replied in flawless, perfectly accented Japanese.
“Xander, since when do you speak Japanese?” Clark had the presence of mind to ask quietly.
“Uh, since right now actually,” he said in a low voice. “I just suddenly know it. I wonder if there are any other languages I don’t know that I know?”
Chloe raised an eyebrow and looked at Xander for a moment, “How can you not know what languages you know how to speak?”
“I don’t know,” the Thunder God said with a shrug, “I just heard her use a Japanese word and suddenly I know the language. Maybe it’s an Aesir thing…”
“Umm,” Clark interrupted with a frown. “Shouldn’t we change the subject before someone overhears us?”
Midori had watched the exchange between the three friends with a small smile. It reminded her of her own best friends from back east. “I take it that what we talked about on the bridge earlier isn’t common knowledge then?”
“No,” Clark answered quickly, his voice still low. “You and Chloe are the only people besides our parents who know that.”
Midori looked Chloe in the eye, “And I take it you know about me too?”
“Yeah, I recognized you from where you went past the school…on the way to the bridge,” Chloe confirmed with a nod.
“So maybe the four of us should go somewhere more private to talk?” Xander suggested.
Midori thought about it for a moment before nodding her agreement. They definitely had a lot to talk about.