Chapter 29 – Dancing with Devils 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: Thanks to everyone for the kind words and well wishes. I really do appreciate them. As promised, here is the next installment of the story, and with any luck, there'll be another every Wednesday until the story is done or until I get to a point where I can post more often again.
-== Chapter Twenty-Nine – Dancing with Devils II ==-
Greg stumbled away from the dented and broken shell of his ancient car and into the darkness of the field around him. His entire body burned with an excruciating agony as he staggered and struggled to keep moving. His conscious, human mind screamed in gibbering terror as it tried in vain to comprehend what was happening to him. He moved along on pure, primal instincts. It was as if some sort of racial memory or biological imperative had taken over, driving his body along toward an end his brain couldn’t comprehend.
Suddenly he knew he was close. His body tensed like a coiled spring and leapt toward his target. Inhuman power surged through his tortured leg muscles, shredding the fragile, human tissues with the force of his jump. The pain was incredible, tearing an anguished scream from his throat. The scream was strangled off into a faint gurgle by vocal chords that had long since been paralyzed by the combination of various insectile venoms still present in his body.
The teen slammed into the nearby cow like a human cannonball, driving his unsuspecting prey to the ground with a startled bleat of panic. Moving of their own volition, one of Greg’s hands flashed out, striking the animal’s soft underbelly with an incredibly powerful spear-hand blow. His attack pierced the tender flesh like a blade, punching through muscle into the creature’s abdominal cavity. As the bovine began to scream its pain and distress, Greg’s other hand slammed down on the base of its skull in a hammer-blow that sent the animal into the final silence of death.
As his body began tearing the carcass apart, the last remnants of his human mind simply shut down, fleeing before the ferocity of his alien instincts. No longer constrained by human consciousness, his body began to feed with monstrous ferocity. It needed fuel to rebuild its mortal shell, fuel to assimilate its human mind. It needed fuel for its metamorphosis.
* * * * *
The four teens weren’t surprised that the discovery of five football players staked out as scarecrows on the school’s front lawn seemed to be everyone’s favorite topic of discussion as they moved through crowd at the dance. It seemed that the high school rumor mill was already working overtime to explain what had happened. So far, the most popular theory was that members of the Granville football team were responsible. They had ambushed Whitney and company in hope of the ensuring the Crows lost of course, but even the second string of the Smallville team was better then they were.
Xander couldn’t help but frown at that revelation. He wouldn’t have thought it was possible for their team to win with the five undisputed best players out of the game. Something about it made his weird-o-meter twitch, repeatedly. Turning he saw the same troubled looks on Chloe and Clark’s faces. “I’m guessing I’m not the only one who finds the outcome of the game a little odd?” he asked just loud enough for the others to hear him.
Clark nodded. “The second string team was barely mediocre in practice but they just beat last year’s district champs by 20 points…that’s more than a little odd.”
The Aesir sighed, “Alright, we’ll start researching it tomorrow. We’ve got at least a week before the next game. Hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out before then.”
“I’ll call Willow tomorrow,” Chloe offered. “Maybe we can find some online resources to help with the search.”
“Can I help?” Midori asked.
The other three teens exchanged glances and both Clark and Chloe shrugged at him before Xander spoke. “It’s gonna be some really, really weird stuff, but yeah, you’re welcome to come along. We just can’t tell…”
“Pete!” Clark said loudly, stopping Xander in his tracks. The foursome turned to see the boy in question walking up with a broad smile.
“Clark! Chloe! Xander! You guys made it,” the dark skinned boy said with a wide grin before turning to Midori. “Who’s your new friend?”
“Uh, Pete I’d like you to meet Midori Satou,” Clark said with a smile before noticing the frown the girl was giving him.
“Actually, it’s Satou Midori. In Japan, we put the family name first not our given names,” she corrected before turning a bright smile on Pete. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’m Pete Ross,” he said, introducing himself with a smile. “You’re from Japan, I take it?”
“Not really,” she said with a shake of her head. “I was born and raised in Gotham City, but my mom and dad were both born in Japan.”
“Cool,” the boy said with a smile, “Welcome to Smallville!” He turned to Chloe as Save Me by Remy Zero began to play, “Hey Chloe, you want to dance?”
“Sure,” the blonde replied with a smile, following him out onto the floor.
“Oh!” Midori said once Chloe and Pete were out of earshot, “Those two are dating?”
“Chloe and Pete?” Clark asked incredulously. “No, they’re just friends.”
As Midori raised a doubtful eyebrow, Xander spoke up, switching to Japanese so that his brother could remain happily oblivious to the truth. “*Pete has a major crush on Chloe but she’s got a crush on Clark who’s oblivious to everything but one of the cheerleaders, though I hope he’s getting over that,*” he explained quickly.
Midori considered the revelations for a moment before replying, “*This could get messy then. Is Pete in on your secrets?*”
“*No, he’s not. Clark’s not real big on opening up to people,*” he answered with a sigh. “*Chloe didn’t actually find out the truth about him until she figured out he had superpowers of his own this afternoon. He doesn’t want to tell anyone to find out until he doesn’t have a choice.*”
She frowned and switched back to English. “Dance with me Clark,” she said as she grabbed the Kryptonian’s hand and pulled him out onto the dance floor. Glancing over her shoulder as they walked, she threw a quick wink at Xander. Xander just smiled as Midori, who was more than a foot shorter than Clark, began dancing in an aggressively sexy manner with his brother.
Only Xander seemed to notice the jealous look that crossed Chloe’s face when she saw the way Clark and the Japanese girl were dancing. He didn’t doubt that Midori saw it as well and merely didn’t react to it though. The Aesir wasn’t entirely sure what the girl was up to, but he had a feeling that she was right. This might get very messy indeed.
* * * * *
“Buffy!” Willow called out desperately. “Buffy wake up! Giles! Ms. Calendar, please! Somebody wake up!” The redhead had been trying for what seemed like hours to try and get some response, any response, from the others. Unfortunately, all of her efforts so far had been entirely in vain. If she couldn’t manage to wake up Buffy and the others so they could find a way to escape, then they were all going to die. Their only other hope was that Angel would figure out what had happened and find them before the revivification ritual began.
Only, given what Xander had told her about having to force Angel to help rescue Buffy, Willow wasn’t willing to bet that the vampire would be much help. Even if he did manage to put the pieces together, there was no guarantee that he’d be inclined to help without someone there to put a cross in his face and force the issue. And since Xander was hundreds of miles away in the middle of Kansas, there definitely wasn’t anyone else who could come to the rescue. There only real hope was that she could somehow manage to rouse the others and they could find a way to escape.
“Buffy!” she called out again. She had to keep trying; it was the only way to keep the mind-numbing terror at bay.
* * * * *
Lindsey swallowed hard before moving over to his desk and sitting in one of the seats in front of it. The seats usually reserved for his clients. Hel and Hades were among the most feared of the Gods of the Underworld. They had been two of the prime movers behind the real evil in the world before the Powers that Be had taken over and the Senior Partners had displaced them. Even more importantly, they hadn’t taken being reduced to ‘just’ being hell-gods particularly well. The firm had long been forbidden from having any dealings with them or their realms.
Their completely undetected presence inside his office was deeply troubling to say the very least. The potential consequences for Lindsey were almost unimaginable. At this point, he was well and truly damned, whether he listened to them or not. Either they’d kill him, dragging his soul into one of their domains in the process, if he refused or the Senior Partners would do the same when they found out he’d listened to them. “I’m listening,” he said suddenly, his voice that of a man who’d realized how it truly felt to be caught between a rock and hard place.
“See, I told you he was smarter than he looked,” Hades said matter-of-factly to his fellow god. “But then he’d almost have to be, wouldn’t he?” The god looked back at the folder in his hand before continuing, “You have quite the impressive record for such a young attorney, Lindsey. Three major cases before you were handed Thor’s heir, all resolved precisely the way your Senior Partners wanted them. Not bad for a man who’s barely been out of law school for a couple of years.” He looked at the lawyer with a predatory grin, “Unfortunately, it seems that all your chips are in the pot and you just got dealt a shit hand. It’s a shame, really.”
The Olympian dropped the folder on Lindsey’s desk and smirked at the man. “How does it feel to know you’re the sacrificial goat for when Thor’s little spawn starts being a real pain in the firm’s ass? I bet it kind of sucks, doesn’t it?”
Somehow the lawyer managed not to react and acknowledge just how bad his predicament really was. “What exactly is it that you want from me?” he asked calmly.
“Well, you see Lindsey, a few millennia ago Lady Hel and I had the ground cut out from under us by a handful of back-stabbing, insignificant demon-gods,” Hades explained with an ever-deepening scowl. “These impotent little god-lings allied themselves with a group of equally unimportant true gods and managed, through sheerest luck, to usurp control of reality from their betters. In an instant, we were reduced from being the real players on this world to being just another couple of chumps.”
“It was not a pleasing experience,” the goddess said in her cold, corpselike voice. “These so-called Powers that Be changed the rules, denied us our mortal worshippers. They tried to wipe out our faiths altogether, all in the name of their damnable balance.”
“That’s not even the worst of it, though,” Hades said with a grimace of disgust. “They’ve let the forces of evil grow as weak and ineffectual as the champions of the light. They’ve let dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of opportunities to seize control over this pitiful reality for the forces of darkness slip through their grasp.”
“Ever since your precious Senior Partners climbed into bed with the Powers that Be, real evil has fallen by the wayside,” Hel said with a sickened frown. “Humankind no longer lives in fear of the dark, instead they mock and ridicule the very things that should inspire abject terror.”
“The point is, that thanks to Thor’s brat, the rules are changing,” Hades said with an evil grin. “Very, very soon, your bosses are going to have to answer for their betrayal and when that time comes, there’s going to be some serious payback.”
“I still really don’t see what this all has to do with me,” Lindsey said blandly, ignoring the churning fear in his gut.
“We’ve come to offer you a way out, Lindsey,” the goddess said, pushing herself upright and walking casually around to stand behind him. In as single smooth motion, she wrapped an arm across his chest to rest her hand on his left shoulder and whispered in his ear, “A chance to be on the winning team when the fireworks die out.”
“It’s a simple offer, mortal,” Hades said, leaning back in his seat with a smirk. “You tender your resignation from Wolfram and Hart and work for us instead. You’ll be our agent on Earth until we can openly act for ourselves. In exchange, you’ll have all the power, wealth, prestige and influence you could ever dream of.” His grin faded into a sneer, “Or you refuse, someone tips off the firm that you’re helping us and you spend a few million years rotting in some unnamed hell dimension. It’s your choice of course.”
“Not much of a choice is it?” the lawyer asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Doesn’t have to be,” the goddess said with a wicked smile as she stood up and drug her nails lightly across his shirt. “Free will just demands that you have a choice, not that they’re good choices. Don’t you just love it?”
“What do I need to do?” he asked in response.
* * * * *
“How about a dance, handsome?” a familiar voice said from behind the Aesir as he alternated between watching Midori and Clark practically have sex on the dance floor and watching Chloe half-heartedly dance with Pete while glaring at the other girl.
He turned to look at his cousin before speaking, “Isn’t this place a little crowded for you to be making an appearance, Aphrodite?”
The goddess grinned wickedly, “The wonderful thing about crowds is that even we gods can get lost in them. Only you, Clark, Chloe and Midori can tell there’s anything different about me, to everyone else, I’m just an incredibly sexy young woman asking a handsome young man to dance. So what do you say, Xander?”
“And you’re so modest too,” the Thunder God said with a joking smirk as he offered his hand to the Olympian.
“Modesty is for mortals, not gods,” she replied with a saucy grin as she led him out onto the dance floor. By the time they reached an open space, a slow, sensual song had begun and the goddess didn’t hesitate to press close to him and began to sway seductively against him in time to the music.
“Okay, this is a little awkward,” Xander said hesitantly.
“Why?” Aphrodite asked curiously as she continued to dance.
“There’s that whole part where you and I are cousins,” the Aesir said uncomfortably. “And this is kind of making it hard…”
The goddess abruptly ground her pelvis against him in a very naughty way, enjoying his body’s instant reaction as a number of his higher brain functions stalled out momentarily. “It certainly does,” she commented with a wicked grin before noting the mildly distressed look in Xander’s eyes.
She sighed and spoke softly in a language that certainly wasn’t English, “*That pesky human morality of yours is bothering you isn’t it?*”
As that same strange mental sensation he’d experienced with Midori’s name recurred, Xander’s brain informed him that she was speaking an ancient dialect of Greek and he abruptly understood what she had said. “*Do you have any idea how disturbing this is?*” he asked with a frown as he shook off the shock her actions had induced. “*Cousins don’t dance together like this…well, not normal cousins anyway…*”
“*You’re a god, Xander,” she replied, noticing that despite his protestations he wasn’t pulling away. “*You have to realize that our rules are different from those of humans. Strictly speaking, all of the gods are related to each other one way or another and there are very few of us. If we abided by human ideals of morality, we’d be forced to either only take lovers among the mortal races or go through eternity very, very lonely,*” she explained softly. “*If it helps ease your mind, we are not really related at all. You are the product of some 70 or more generations of human interbreeding, we’re no more blood relations than you and Chloe or Buffy or even Midori.*”
As she spoke the boy began to relax and move with her more fluidly, beginning to enjoy the dance and the almost intimate nature of the contact between them. “*So why do you Olympians tend to call me your cousin then?*” he asked a few moments later.
“*Because you’re a god, the same as we are,*” she explained with a smile. “*It’s a convenient word that carries a connotation of affection and kinship, albeit in a distant sense. There aren’t many words in mortal tongues that fit the situation better than ‘cousin’.*”
Xander raised an eyebrow as he considered her words. “*I see your point,*” he conceded after a moment. “*Guess there are a lot of things that human vocabularies fall short of…*”
“*You have no idea,*” she agreed with a smile. They continued to dance in silence for a while, merely enjoying the sensations of their bodies moving together. As the song finally drew to a close, the Thunder God began to pull away, but she quickly pulled him back against her as another slow song began. “*Not yet, one more song,*” she insisted, licking her lips invitingly as she met his eyes.
The Aesir felt a jolt run through his entire body as he looked into her eyes like that. It suddenly occurred to him that Aphrodite was probably a lot more dangerous than he gave her credit for, but he certainly couldn’t say no to another dance. “*Alright,*” he said with a soft smile, letting her pull him close again.
“*So why haven’t you asked Chloe to dance yet?*” she asked after a few moments.
He rolled his eyes in response, “*Is that why you’re here? To find out why I haven’t jumped on your advice?*”
“*Actually, I’m here because I’m concerned about you, Xander,*” she countered sincerely. “*And I’m not alone in that. You seem so intent on saving everyone else that I wonder who will have to save you…from yourself. Why do you fight so hard against what your heart wants?*”
“*Because I remember what happened the last time I pursued someone who had a crush on someone else,*” he answered bluntly. “*I honestly thought that Buffy liked me too, but she preferred a demon-animated corpse who was too afraid to even try and save her from the Master. I know how Chloe feels about Clark and I don’t think I can handle being hurt like that again.*”
“*Chloe feels the same about you as she does about Clark,*” the goddess reassured him flatly. “*If you don’t believe me, just look at her.*”
The shifted in time with the music, allowing Xander to catch sight of Chloe, who was now standing, along with Clark and Midori, just off the dance floor. She was watching the two deities intently with a soft frown. Without warning, the Goddess of Love kissed him passionately, just as his eyes met Chloe’s. There was no mistaking the jealousy he saw there in the moment before his eyes fluttered shut.
After a very long moment, the goddess pulled away finally and looked him in the eyes. “*For someone who hasn’t had much practice at it, you’re certainly one hell of a kisser,*” she said as Xander noticed a slight flush to her cheeks and almost hungry look on her face. “*Did I prove my point, or do we need to make out some more?*” She licked her lips and slid her self tantalizingly against Xander’s body. Her smile left little doubt in his mind that making out with Aphrodite would probably lead to doing things that were almost guaranteed to hurt Chloe.
“*You made your point,*” he said finally stepping back and ending their dance together. That move required every ounce of willpower he could muster, but somehow he managed it. “*Explaining that kiss to Chloe is going to be difficult enough, I think she’s upset about it.*”
“*So tell her the truth,*” the Olympian said with a smile. “*You turned down the advances of the Goddess of Love because you’d rather be with her. That’s something that very few gods and even fewer mortals could truthfully say.*”
As the two gods walked off the dance floor, another odd thought occurred to Xander. “*How is it that I can speak ancient Greek and Japanese anyway?*” he asked.
The Greek goddess laughed aloud at the sudden change of subject, a tinkling sound that sent shivers of enjoyment racing down Xander’s spine. “*You can speak, understand, read and write every mortal tongue you encounter. After all, what good is a god that cannot understand a supplicant?*”
“*Huh, I hadn’t really thought of that, but…good point,*” he said with a grin. “*I guess the foreign language credits I need to complete high school ought to be a snap then…*”
They reached the edge of the dance floor, where Chloe, Clark and Midori were waiting. Clark was looking at them oddly and Pete was nowhere to be seen. Before the Aesir could say anything at all, the goddess took the initiative.
“It’s nice to see that at least one of you two took my advice, Kal-El,” she said with a broad smile at the Kryptonian.
“Aphrodite, how can you be here with all these people around?” the younger Kent brother asked in a low voice.
“As I told Xander, crowds are wonderful things that way. To everyone but you four I’m just another pretty face in the crowd,” she said with a grin. “That’s why Pete was conveniently distracted by another young lady asking him to dance.” She looked toward the missing member of the group of friends. “In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if those two started seeing a lot of each other actually…”
The goddess turned back and smiled broadly at Midori and Chloe before glancing at Xander and Clark. “Why don’t you boys go and get these lovely young ladies something to drink? It’d give us an opportunity for a little…girl talk.” Seeing Xander begin to scowl, she rolled her eyes exasperatedly. “Honestly Xander, it’s just girl talk, that’s all! It’s nothing to get your knickers in a twist over!”
“Why doesn’t that reassure me?” the Thunder God asked aloud before turning to his brother. “Come on Clark, let’s go.”
As the boys ambled off through the crowd with the girls watching, Aphrodite couldn’t help but comment, “I do so hate to see those two leave, but by Hera I love to watch them go. Asses like those just don’t come along everyday…”
She turned back to the girls to see that Chloe was blushing in response to her words while Midori was most certainly not. “Now then, you two ladies know who I am, right?” she asked in a deceptively friendly tone of voice.
“You’re really Aphrodite?” Midori asked with a neutral expression. “The Goddess of Love?”
“The one and only,” she acknowledged with a wicked smile. “Though I’m sensing a bit of skepticism from our young Green Lantern...how about a demonstration to ease your mind?”
Before Midori could respond to the woman, a strange feeling flooded through her. She suddenly found herself unable to tear her eyes away from the self-proclaimed Goddess of Love’s lips. It was as if a burning, all consuming need had abruptly overtaken her. She stepped toward the woman and as quickly as it came, the feeling vanished, leaving behind only a vaguely disappointed, unsatisfied feeling.
The Green Lantern swallowed hard, “Okay, I believe you. That was intense.”
“Lust always is,” the goddess said with a smirk, “Which is exactly why it makes a much more effective demonstration than real love. That aside, however, I am here to offer advice and a warning for both of you. First off, don’t be afraid to pursue what makes you happy,” she met Chloe’s eyes pointedly as she spoke, before turning to Midori and continuing, “no matter what other people might think. And if either of you hurts Xander on purpose, I’ll personally see to it that you never know the joy of love again.” Her voice hardened to a sharp edge as she offered her warning, before softening again just as abruptly. “Now, enjoy the rest of the dance.”
The mortal girls just watched in shock as Aphrodite turned and literally vanished into the crowd. “Okay,” Midori said after a long moment of silence, “that was one of Xander’s ‘cousins’, right?”
“Yeah,” Chloe replied with a nod, “it was.”
“That’s one damn scary family,” the dark-haired girl said pointedly. “Did you see how she kissed him?”
“Yeah,” the blonde repeated with a hint of hurt creeping into the edge of her voice, “I did.”
Midori fell silent, torn between wanting to reassure her and not being sure her new friend would acknowledge how she really felt about Xander. Even still, something told her she needed to be careful how she approached trying to date any of this trio…otherwise, someone was going to get hurt.
* * * * *
“So, you kissed her,” Clark commented as they slipped through the crowd toward the refreshment table.
“No,” Xander denied bluntly, “She kissed me. Big, big difference.”
“Isn’t she your cousin?” the Kryptonian asked in a teasing tone.
“Not in any way that remotely resembles any traditional sense of the word,” the Aesir protested defensively before noticing the grin on his brother’s face.
“Xan, from what I remember of the old Greek myths, I don’t think that would have mattered much to the Greek gods anyway,” Clark pointed out amusedly. “All things considered, it stands to reason that their rules are different.”
“Yeah, they are,” the older teen confirmed with a glance back toward the three girls. “She definitely makes me nervous though.”
“I’d imagine,” Clark said as they reached their destination and picked up a couple of cups of punch. “What do you think of Midori?”
Xander began to grin, recognizing that particular question as a good sign. “She seems nice…I think she might even be interested in you, unlike a certain other young lady I can think of.”
“You think so?” the Kryptonian asked uncertainly.
“No, I’m just saying it to hear myself talk,” the god replied snidely. “Of course I think so! I wouldn’t set you up to get shot down…well, probably not more than once anyway...” The Thunder God grinned at the glare his brother gave him.
“You’re a lot of help, Xan, really,” the younger teen declared deadpan.
“I try,” he said with a smirk.
“So are you gonna ask Chloe to dance?” Clark asked as they saw Aphrodite walk into the crowd and began heading back to the girls.
“I was thinking about it,” the Aesir confessed with a smile.
* * * * *
Midori saw the boys approaching as the music changed again, to something more upbeat and energetic. With a wicked grin, she turned to Chloe and said, “I love this song! Come on, let’s dance.”
The blonde seemed to hesitate for a moment, before giving in and letting the other girl lead her out onto the dance floor. “You know,” Chloe said as they began to dance, “I’ve never actually danced with another girl before.”
“You’ve never…” Midori seemed surprised. Admittedly, she didn’t think that Chloe swung that way, but still… Back in Gotham City it hadn’t been at all uncommon for even completely straight girls to dance with their friends. “You’ve never gone out with your girlfriends and just danced together?”
“I don’t actually have a lot of girlfriends,” the blonde admitted. “In fact, until Xander came along, Pete and Clark were my only close friends at all.”
It was a fact that, while surprising, sort of explained a lot to the dark-haired girl. “Well,” she replied with a broad grin, “you have one now. We really hot super-chicks have to stick together after all.”
Chloe smiled back brightly and just enjoyed the dance.
* * * * *
Xander couldn’t help but smile when he saw Midori practically drag Chloe out onto the dance floor. Seeing the two of them together immediately reminded him of the times he’d spent at the Bronze with Willow and Buffy. It hadn’t been at all unusual to see girls dancing together like that in Sunnydale, some times more seriously than others. A quick glance around the dance floor, however, revealed that it didn’t seem to be nearly as common, or accepted, here. There were a number of people giving the two girls odd looks.
The Aesir frowned. Somehow, he had a bad feeling about that response.