Chapter 28 – Dancing with Devils I
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 really, really hate to do this, but I'm afraid that real life is leaving me no choice in the matter. I'm going to have to cut down to one update a week for the time being. My dad was just diagnosed with leukemia and things are just...bad as a result. Starting with my next update, which you can expect around Wednesday of next week, I'll be posting one chapter a week on that day. Once my things get back to a more normal state in my life, I'll go back to more frequent updates, I promise.
-== Chapter Twenty-Eight – Dancing with Devils I ==-
Everything felt wrong, Willow realized as she slowly regained consciousness. She wasn’t entirely sure where she was, but she was fairly certain that she was hanging upside down from her ankles and it was not at all comfortable. She was afraid to open her eyes, so instead she racked her brain for an answer to the most pressing questions she had. Questions like where she was, how she got there, and why she was hanging from her ankles. The time leading up to her waking was fuzzy, but she vaguely remembered having been in the library helping research the details of the revivification ritual that had everyone so worried. She remembered Buffy leaving to walk into to a trap, only to have Giles come out and announce a short while later that the trap hadn’t been for Buffy at all…it was for them.
The hacker’s eyes snapped open as the moments before she was knocked unconscious came screaming back to her abruptly. As her eyes quickly focused, her worst fears were realized; she was hanging over a metal table on which the Master’s skeleton was laying. Raising her eyes, her heart fell further as she realized that things were much, much worse than she thought. Hanging there alongside her were Giles, Miss Calendar, Cordelia, and Buffy, all of whom were still very much unconscious.
They were in serious trouble.
* * * * *
As they walked back toward the school, the quartet of teens fell into a surprisingly companionable silence. Midori found it more than a little odd that she already felt so comfortable around three people that she hardly knew, but it was kind of nice in a weird way. When they got a little closer to the school, Midori was shocked to see what amounted to five wooden crosses set up on the front lawn with teenage boys stripped to their boxer shorts and tied to them.
When none of her companions seemed particularly distressed by the unusual decorations, she got the sinking feeling that they may have had something to do with it. “What’s up with the S & M displays in front of the school?” she asked, keeping her tone as neutral as possible.
“Oh, uh… let’s just say that they’re an object lesson for the football team,” Xander said quickly. “We’re giving them a little taste of their own medicine.”
“Isn’t that a little bit extreme?” the Green Lantern asked with a skeptical frown. “I mean, crucifixion is something even the Romans reserved for special occasions.”
The trio exchanged surprised glances and Clark shrugged. Chloe turned to the new girl and explained, “The football team has been picking a freshman and hanging them like that on the night of the first football game for at least the last eleven years and probably even longer. The only difference is they put their scarecrow out in a cornfield where no one would know about it and left them out there overnight, they’ll be let down once the game is over and people find them.”
“And you should know that the meteor freak you helped us stop this afternoon was a former scarecrow. He was hanging just like that out in a cornfield when the meteors fell on Smallville and it left him in a coma for eleven years,” Clark said with an oddly regretful tone. “When he woke up, he killed the three former jocks responsible and then decided that he needed to kill everyone at Smallville High for letting it continue to happen.”
“I warned them,” the Aesir gestured toward the boys, “not to put out another scarecrow when I stopped them from grabbing a friend of ours earlier this afternoon. They ignored me and grabbed someone else, so I think they’re getting exactly what they deserve.”
Midori frowned angrily at the scarecrows for a long moment. “I take it back, it isn’t extreme at all,” she said after considering the explanation. “Nice work, very fitting. I just hope they learn the lesson.”
“So do I,” Xander said fervently. “Because the next time they try to put out a scarecrow, I won’t be as nice about things.”
The foursome continued on their way, entering the school through a side-door, out of sight of the scarecrows. “Aren’t you guys worried about the brute squad out there ratting you out or trying to expose your secrets?” Midori asked a short while later.
“Not really,” Chloe said with a grin. “Xander’s cousin, Hermes, gave him a pretty effective way to disguise himself and they were unconscious by the time Clark and I did our parts.”
The dark-haired girl stopped abruptly before questioning what she heard. “Hermes? You have a cousin named after the Greek God of Travelers?”
“No,” Clark answered very matter-of-factly. “His cousin is the Greek God of Travelers.”
“You’re joking, right?” she said in no small amount of shock.
Xander turned to look at her, pausing only long enough to cast mock-glares at Chloe and Clark. “No, it’s not a joke and no we aren’t crazy either. It’s just a kind of a strange story that goes along with how I was turned from being a normal human guy into an Aesir.”
“Somehow, strange seems like it might be a really big understatement,” she commented glibly as they continued toward the Torch office.
* * * * *
Greg Arkin was angry as he drove his ancient Volkswagen Beetle along the highway. He couldn’t believe that his mother was sending him off to a military school like some sort of juvenile delinquent. It wasn’t like he was the guy out there hanging other kids in cornfields to be a scarecrow, all he’d done was to watch and occasionally film the girl he loved without letting her know about it. His mother just couldn’t seem to grasp that he and Lana were soul-mates.
After everything he’d been through that afternoon: being singled out by that Neanderthal, Whitney, to be the scarecrow and meeting that Thor guy, the last thing he’d expected was to be ambushed by his mother when he got home. She’d gone into his room, without his permission, and found the videos he’d made of Lana. Then she had the nerve to treat him like he was some kind of sick, twisted pervert. What he was doing wasn’t hurting anyone. It wasn’t like Lana didn’t feel the same way about him too… he was sure of it. None of that had mattered to his mother, though. She was hell-bent on sending him away and leaving no one to take care of his bugs.
So he was doing the only thing that he could do. He was taking his insect collection somewhere safe, somewhere he could let set them free. “It’ll be okay,” he said aloud, trying to calm the obviously agitated bugs. “I won’t let her hurt you.” As he spoke, he turned toward the stacks of precariously balanced insect tanks and aquariums, taking his eyes off the road for just a moment.
He looked back to the road and slammed on the brakes, swerving wildly in a desperate effort to avoid the large, black dog that was sitting in the middle of his lane as though he owned the road. The old, poorly maintained car went into a skid as Greg lost control. It missed the animal, only to slam into a telephone pole. Inside the vehicle, glass containers of bugs tumbled around, crashing into one another and smashing into fragments of glass and metal, spilling out their precious cargo.
Behind him, on the road, the dog had vanished, replaced by a man in a very expensive looking suit who eyed the wreck with a strange gleam in his eyes. It was, in fact, the very same man that Xander had encountered on his first night in Metropolis, the man who had been able to survive a blast of lightning from the young god without serious injury. Raising his hand toward the wreck, he began chanting in a guttural, almost alien tongue.
As the glowing green swarm of Kryptonite infected insects rose up and attacked the boy who had been their keeper, a swirling cloud of inky darkness enveloped him. The boy began screaming in purest agony under the insectile assault, the darkness rushed into him, pouring in through every exposed orifice. The man merely smiled as he watched the teen struggle. “Let us see how our young Thunder God deals with the likes of you,” he muttered in a thick Slavic accent before vanishing without a trace.
Inside the car, Greg Arkin screamed himself into unconsciousness as he writhed in agony. The combination of hundreds of Kryptonite infected insect bites and the raw, malignant power of the shadowy entity that the man had summoned threatened to overwhelm the teen as his entire being began to change. His very body was being rebuilt from its most fundamental levels, a process meant to turn him into the perfect avatar for an evil that predated man-kind by hundreds of thousands of years.
And in the festering pits of an unimaginable hell, an alien, irredeemably evil, insectile demon-god laughed. It had been uncounted millennia since even the least of his avatars had walked the earth. It would be good to have even an aspect of his power freed once more.
* * * * *
Midori raised an eyebrow as Chloe unlocked the office of the school’s newspaper and let them all in. “So, what? You guys run the school newspaper too?” she asked with a grin.
“Nah,” Xander said with a smirk before anyone could agree. “Chloe runs it, we just work here.”
“And you’re just freshman?” the green and black haired teen asked with a surprised look. “I’m impressed, you must be really good. At my last school, the upper classman ran everything.”
Chloe blushed slightly at the praise as she, Clark and Xander settled into various chairs scattered about the office. Midori, however, went to the bulletin boards and began to peruse the articles with interest, causing the blonde reporter to speak up. “I call that my ‘Wall of Weird’. It’s a kind of record of all the strange and unexplained things that go on in Smallville,” she explained with a broad smile. “It all seems to go back to the meteor shower eleven years ago…that’s the day the town went schitzo.”
“The meteors were fragments of Krypton that got thrown into my ship’s wormhole when the planet exploded,” Clark added in a guilty tone, “There are crystals in the meteors called Kryptonite that have strange effects on people.”
“So that’s what gave the metahuman we took down earlier his abilities? Exposure to Kryptonite?” Midori asked with a glance at the others.
“Metahuman?” Chloe asked abruptly. “That’s an interesting word for them…”
“It’s not my word, I got it from my ring’s AI,” the new girl said with a smile. “When I asked about it, the ring explained that a decent percentage of the human population possess this unique gene, called a metagene, that’s been developing for thousands of years. For most people it stays dormant and never does anything, but when it does activate the individual tends to rapidly evolve special abilities, becoming metahumans.” She shrugged. “So, it’s kind of a generic term the ring uses to refer to human beings with superpowers and special abilities.”
“And it’s more politically correct than ‘meteor freak’ to boot,” Xander said with a grin. “So how come we’ve never heard of this happening anywhere else on Earth?”
“Beats me,” Midori said with a shrug. “The ring said that some alien race apparently messed around with the human genome a few million years ago and in the process retarded the development of the metagene. Maybe it’s only just recently gotten to a point where it could even be activated?”
“So that’s twice you’ve mentioned something about a ring,” Chloe said with a slight frown, “I take it you aren’t a metahuman then?”
“No, I’m not,” she confirmed. “I’m a member of the Green Lantern Corps. We’re a kind of intergalactic police force.” She held out her right hand to show off the power ring. “The ring is the source of all my special powers. It also has a fairly limited AI in it that can access the database in the Corps’ main computers back on Oa for information and has a wide array of different sensors. It’s how I knew that you guys weren’t human earlier.”
A sly smile slid over Midori’s face as she grabbed a chair and spun it so that the back of the seat faced the other teens before straddling it comfortably, despite the fact that she was wearing a loose, fairly short, schoolgirl style skirt. After all, they seemed to be getting on well enough, surely a little harmless flirting wouldn’t hurt any? It would just be fun.
“So I know what the Kent brothers here are, though I think Xander might have left out some important details earlier,” she shot a quick smirk toward the Aesir. “But what’s your story?” she asked Chloe with a raised eyebrow and a sultry smile.
“Me?” the blonde asked with a look of surprise. “I’m just the token normal human apparently,” she answered with a self-effacing grin.
Midori frowned, taken aback by the response. She consulted her ring quickly for a confirmation of what it told her earlier before countering, “No, you’re actually not. The ring’s sensors say that your brain and neural activity levels are way off the charts for a normal human. You’re easily using two or three times as much of your brain’s potential as a normal human does already and that amount seems to be slowly increasing.”
Chloe’s eyes went wide and a shocked silence descended on the room around her.
Midori leaned back slightly as the realization hit her. “Oh God, you really didn’t know that already, did you? I shouldn’t have just blurted it out like that…I’m so sorry!”
“What am I then?” the reporter asked in a stunned voice.
* * * * *
Lucius Payne shuddered slightly as he crossed the threshold of his conjuration chamber and his mind abruptly cleared. It was the first time he’d entered this room in the days since he’d begun his research into a means to summon Mephistopheles and the powerful magicks embedded in the very walls of the room instantly stripped away the influence of his demonic companions. Cold rage flooded the sorcerer’s mind as he realized that he was being manipulated into making a potentially fatal mistake. Someone had breached the wards on his sanctuary and was making a subtle attempt at destroying him or rather more accurately they were trying to cause him to destroy himself.
With a wave of his hand a word of power, the demon and imp that had been tormenting him shrieked in pain. Invisible coils of power wrapped around the creatures, squeezing them painfully as it hauled them across the room to rest within one of the most powerful devil’s traps ever devised. It was a powerful circle of magickal symbols meant to act as a cage for even the most potent of demonic entities. It was engraved in the very marble of the floor and inlaid with blessed silver to strengthen it further. The trap formed the center of Lucius’ most powerful summoning circle, ensuring that the demons he summoned could only be released on the world if he willed it to be so.
The sorcerer eyed the pitiful creatures that had so very nearly accomplished his destruction with hate-filled disgust. He almost had to admire the simple cunning of their plan. Had his adversary sent a more powerful creature, Lucius’ personal protections would have reacted to it, but these weaklings barely deserved the title of demon at all. Yet they had patiently and subtly manipulated him, pushing him toward a painful, messy death and an equally painful eternity spent as the plaything of one of the most powerful of the known Demon Princes. If not for the powers of his chamber’s wards, the sorcerer would have attempted to call forth a creature that could not be controlled or manipulated the way a lesser demon could. A creature that would have been beyond his power to dismiss and that would have killed him, sooner or later. It was the most brilliant attack he had ever encountered.
“I will give you one chance to avoid a most painful destruction,” Lucius declared after a moment, addressing his would-be assassins in an icy tone. “Name the one who sent you against me and I will only cast you back into whatever Hell you come from.”
“You underestimate our master, sorcerer,” the more powerful of the two replied haughtily. “We are his valued servants, none may harm us with impunity.”
“You overestimate your value, beast. To move openly against me is to invite destruction,” Payne countered with a sneer. “No mortal, or immortal, sorcerer would risk such a thing over the likes of you.” He spat a few words and made a gesture as though he were tearing something apart. Instantly, the demon began wailing in agony as the very fabric of its being was ripped to shreds slowly.
Several minutes later, as the last bits of the first, more powerful, demon dissolved in a foul smelling smoke, Lucius turned his attention to the imp. “Name your master,” he demanded of the lowly fiend.
“Vasek Faustus!” the imp practically screamed out the name in his terror.
With a smirk, Lucius repeated the spell and tore the imp apart and destroying it as surely as he’d destroyed the demon. He couldn’t very well have released the beast after all; if it had been summoned again it could have provided far too many intimate details about his sanctum. As the imp’s remains dissipated, he considered the named he’d been given. Vasek Faustus was a Romanian sorcerer, a descendant of the only sorcerer known to have ever bested Mephistopheles in a bargain. If even half of the rumors about Vasek were true, he was probably one of the most powerful magicians on Earth.
He also knew that Vasek had been in Metropolis a matter of days before the attack on Wolfram and Hart. Rumors even said that someone or something had gotten the better of him at the time, not that Lucius put much stock in such rumors. The real question was why had he been here and why would he attempt to have Mephistopheles unleashed?
The sorcerer frowned. It had to have something to do with the attack on Wolfram and Hart, but what? And more importantly, why was Vasek targeting him with this plan? The deeper Lucius got into Lionel’s little game, the more he began to realize that it was much, much more dangerous than he first thought.
* * * * *
“What am I then?”
Chloe’s words hung on the air and all eyes watched Midori expectantly. ‘Is there anyway to find a real answer to that question?’ the Green Lantern asked her power ring.
‘Negative,’ the ring replied after a moment. ‘A full spectrum genetic analysis would be required which is beyond my sensor capabilities.’
“I don’t know exactly what you are,” Midori said with a sigh. “You could be a metahuman whose abilities are still evolving, part of a more advanced human sub-species that no one has identified yet, or even a hybrid of human and non-human species.”
“I thought you said metahuman abilities developed quickly when the gene activated?” Chloe asked in a remarkably calm voice.
Midori consulted the ring again before answering, “In some cases they develop almost instantly, in others they take days, weeks or even years to fully develop…which is still pretty damn quick in evolutionary terms…” She fell silent listening to the ring’s continued explanation, “Apparently it has something to do with whatever triggers the metagene to activate.”
“Are you okay, Chloe?” Xander asked quickly.
“I think I’m still a few light-years away from okay, Xan,” the blonde said in a surprisingly neutral voice. “I’m so freaked out right now that I just feel kind of numb…”
“I think that’s kind of normal, Chlo,” Clark put in suddenly. “I felt the same way when Dad showed me the ship I came to Earth in.”
“And I went through that same feeling when the Valkyrie showed up and told me who I was,” Xander continued quickly on the heels of Clark’s admission.
“And I felt the same way when my ring choose me to be the Green Lantern for this sector a few days ago,” Midori interjected. “I know how bizarre it feels to realize that your whole world just got turned inside out, but you’re in good company. We’re all here for you.” There was no mistaking the sincerity in her voice.
“You’re right,” Chloe said with a smile, her voice quickly shedding the emotionless tone it had settled into in favor a warmer, more self-assured sound. “I’m not going to freak out about this. I’ll just take it a step at a time and rely on my friends to help me through the weird spots.” She looked Midori in the eye before reiterating, “All of my friends.”
Midori smiled back at her, realizing that the blonde girl really meant it. Despite the fact they’d only just met, Chloe already considered her a friend. Equally surprising, the Green Lantern realized she had already begun to think of this odd little group as her friends as well. She could only hope the boys felt the same.
* * * * *
Lindsey McDonald stood up from his desk and moved to the window. He stared into the moonlit Kansas night and massaged his temples against the pounding headache that he was developing. He glanced for a moment at the pile of papers that were spread across his desk before turning back to the window. For the first time in his life at Wolfram and Hart, the lawyer felt trapped, caught between contradictory orders and competing agendas that couldn’t be rationally reconciled. It made him wish he’d never heard of Alexander Lavelle Harris…Kent…whatever. “Damn, I hate divine politics,” he muttered aloud.
“Perhaps that’s because you’re playing for the losing team,” a gravelly female voice said from near his desk.
The lawyer whirled to face the voice, wondering how it was possible for someone to have entered his office without his knowledge. He was immediately faced with two very different individuals who were lounging arrogantly around his desk. The first was a tall, Nordic looking woman, who was leaning against the front of his desk with a sneer on her face. She had to be nearly six and a half or seven feet tall with skin the unhealthy yellowish color of old tallow wax. Her black, shoulder length hair hung limply about her face. Her clothes were form fitting black leather and lace in a very Goth inspired style. Her lips stood out a sickly, unnatural black like those of a rotting corpse. His first thought was that she was a very old vampire, but he quickly dismissed it. The air of menace she radiated was far too potent for any mere vampire.
The second individual was as a man who was seated casually behind Lindsey’s desk. His features were unremarkable, though clearly indicating him as being descended of Mediterranean stock: sallow skin, aquiline nose, short, well-kept black hair. His clothes stank of excess, an immaculately kept black silk suit with a blood-red linen shirt and matching tie. His expensive looking Italian leather shoes were propped up on Lindsey’s desk as though the man owned the place. On the man’s right hand he wore an exceptionally detailed silver, skull ring with ruby eyes that perfectly matched an almost identical tie-tack that he also wore.
Lindsey’s eyes flicked to his office door, which he noted was still closed and locked, precisely the way he had left it. Clearly, there was something more to his visitors than met the eye. The man was actively ignoring him, engrossed in flipping through a very familiar seeming stack of papers while the woman eyed him with a dangerous gleam in her black eyes.
“Who are you?” Lindsey asked calmly, far more calmly than he expected given his rising sense of alarm. “How did you get in here?”
“I am Hel,” the woman replied coldly, “Daughter of Loki, Queen of the Underworld, Goddess of the Dead.”
“And I,” the man replied with a smirk without ever looking up from his papers, “am Hades, King of the Nether realms, God of the Dead.” A moment later he looked up from his reading with an openly predatory grin. “We’re here to make you an offer you won’t refuse, Mr. McDonald. Not if you’re as smart as you think you are anyway.”
* * * * *
After a long moment of reassuring Chloe, Midori turned her gaze to Xander and asked a question that had been eating at her for a while now. “So what’s all this about Greek gods and Valkyries?”
“Are you sure you really want to know?” the dark-haired teen asked with a questioning smile.
“Yeah, I am,” she replied with a grin, “So spill it.”
“Remember how I told you I was born human but became one of the Aesir?” the Thunder God asked. When she nodded in response, he continued. “The Aesir are a clan of extra-dimensional beings that were worshipped as Gods by the Vikings and some of the Germanic tribes. I am a distant descendant of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. He was sent to Earth and condemned to live out his life as a mortal man for a crime he committed,” he explained, greatly simplifying the story. “I became an Aesir because out of all Thor’s descendants over the last fifteen hundred years or so, I was found worthy of his legacy. I was given immortality, his divinity, and all of his powers, though I have to grow into those since I’m still practically a child in terms of the Aesir.”
Midori’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped open, “You’re shitting me!”
“Nope,” Clark said with a half-smile, “He’s really not.”
“I wish I was,” Xander said with a sigh. “Along with Thor’s power I also inherited his enemies and his family. Seems that Thor’s mother was actually Zeus’s sister, so I’m considered a ‘cousin’ of all of the Greek and Roman gods, plus both Odin and Zeus have declared that for all intents and purposes, I am Thor.” The teen shrugged, “I’m still trying to get my head around all the repercussions of that…”
“You’re really not kidding?” the green and black haired girl asked with a stunned look. ‘Is what he just told me even possible?’ she asked the ring.
‘Affirmative,’ the ring replied instantly. ‘It is not uncommon for powerful extra-dimensional beings to be worshipped as gods by less advanced cultures. The Guardians of the Galaxy were worshipped as such for several millennia before they founded the Green Lantern Corps.’
“It’s the truth, Midori,” Chloe confirmed with a nod. “Clark and I both met Hermes earlier tonight and the Olympian was quick to confirm that Xander is an actual, honest to God, god. Even though he doesn’t really act like it…”
A sudden honking of horns and general commotion outside drew the attention of all four teens. “Looks like the football game is over,” Clark remarked with a grin on seeing the line of traffic passing the scarecrows. “Which means we should probably head over to the dance…if we’re still going to go?”
“I think we should definitely still go,” Xander said with a broad smile. “After everything that’s happened today we all deserve some relaxation. You should come too, Midori. Much fun will be had by all…”
“Okay,” she said with a grin as she shoved aside the many shocking revelations of the evening. “You know, I used to think that Gotham City was weird, but this place takes weird to a whole new level.”
“If you think this is weird, get Xander to tell you about Sunnydale, where he grew up,” Chloe said with a chuckle. “I think it’s actually weirder than Smallville.”
“Weirder?” Midori asked with a dismayed frown, “I don’t think I want to know, do I?”
“Probably not,” the god confirmed with a grin and a nod.