Chapter 3 – Settling
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, 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: Happy Thanksgiving all! I’m sorry this chapter is later than I wanted it to be, but between the holiday week, my beta-reader being busy with school and the 6-hour time difference between where I live and where he lives it just didn’t happen. Enjoy!
-== Chapter Three – Settling ==-
“Clark, why don’t you show Xander up to his room?” his Aunt instructed as they entered the house. “Have you eaten anything for lunch yet, Xander?” she asked with a frown.
“Uh, not really,” the Aesir admitted as his stomach growled. “I picked at a muffin at the Beanery but that was about it.”
“I’ll fix you a couple of sandwiches to hold you until dinnertime then, you go on up and unpack,” she said with a warm smile.
The room he’d been given was nicer than the bedroom he’d had at the house in Sunnydale and seemed very familiar. As he looked around the room, he remembered having gotten dressed in this very room during his first visit. In the eight years since, the only thing that appeared to have changed were the bed linens.
“Remember this place?” Clark asked with a grin.
“Strangely enough, yeah,” Xander answered with a smile of his own. “This was the guest room when I stayed last time, right”
“Yep, but it’s your room now,” Clark said simply. “Is that really all your stuff?”
“Yep, this is everything. I’ve got some money to replace things with and there are a couple of insurance checks from the fire. But for now, yeah, this is it.” Xander said sadly.
“Well, I’ve got a computer in my room if you want to check your e-mail or anything and I’m sure that mom and dad won’t mind if you need to call and let anyone know you got here okay,” the younger teen offered. “You want some help unpacking?”
Xander hesitated, “No offense, Clark, but what I could really use is a few minutes to myself. This has all been a little much to take in and I need some time to deal…”
Clark smiled understandingly, “I can only imagine. Take your time, we’ll be downstairs.”
As his cousin retreated, Xander closed the room’s door and breathed a sigh of relief. Unpacking his bag in front of an audience could have raised a few awkward questions. There were some things in it that would’ve been troublesome to explain. He quickly went to work finding hiding places for the handful of books he’d brought that he needed to keep secret. A few volumes of magickal theory and a couple of books on methods of protecting against magickal attacks would certainly be enough to draw some unwanted attention. As would the small wooden box containing a couple of crosses, some holy water and a few wooden stakes. It was a Watcher’s emergency kit that Giles had given him, just in case.
He tucked the books in recessed cubby-hole he found in the closet and slipped the box in a dresser drawer. ‘The notice-me-not spell on the box will keep anyone from noticing it there,’ he thought with a grin. As he unpacked his clothes, folding or hanging them up as needed, his mind wandered to his earlier concerns.
“Can I really stay here?” he wondered aloud.
“If you want to, there’s no reason why not,” a vaguely familiar female voice that didn’t belong to Martha Kent said from behind him.
* * * * *
As Clark walked downstairs, his smile quickly faded. He could hear his mom and dad in the kitchen discussing Xander. He knew that his dad had some serious reservations about Xander and what growing up in such an abusive, neglectful environment had done to the boy, but Jonathan Kent would sooner die than turn away family in need. Unfortunately, his cousin’s presence was likely to create quite a bit of stress for everyone, especially if his father insisted that Clark keep his abilities secret from Xander.
“How’s he settling in Clark?” his father asked as he came in and perched on one of the kitchen stools.
“He’s unpacking,” Clark answered. “He asked for a few minutes alone, said he needed some time to deal with everything.” When his father and mother didn’t say anything, Clark dove into what he needed to say. “I think I should tell him my secret. He’s family, he’s going to live here now, and after everything he’s been through, I think he deserves our trust.”
“I understand what you’re thinking, son,” Jonathan began, “but trust has to be earned. We just don’t know anything about the young man Xander’s grown into. What if he’s like your Uncle Tony?”
“He’s not, Dad,” Clark countered immediately. “You didn’t see his face when I told him what happened the day Uncle Tony hurt him. You didn’t hear him. He’s nothing like that monster.”
“Clark, your father’s right,” his Mom chimed in. “We don’t know Xander that well yet. He’s been through a lot already and we have no way of knowing how he’ll react to your abilities.”
Before Clark could protest, his dad spoke up again. “I’m not saying that you can never tell him, Clark. But until we get to know him better, it just isn’t safe.”
The super-powered teen sighed heavily. It was exactly the response he’d expected, which didn’t bode well for what he was about to tell them. “I told him about my abilities the last time he was here,” he admitted. “He doesn’t remember because of the accident, but his memories are starting to come back.”
“Clark,” his father began in his lecturing tone.
“Dad, I was six years old,” Clark interrupted. “Xander became my first real friend. It seemed wrong to not tell him. He was here for over a week afterward and never breathed a word of it to anyone.”
“I understand that son,” Jonathan said with a sigh. “But if he remembers, it’s going to put us in a very difficult position.”
“Xander would never hurt a friend, Dad,” the teen said simply. “Not if he could avoid it. I just know it.”
“I want to believe that too, Clark, but we can’t be sure,” his mother said softly. “If he remembers what you told him, we’ll figure something out. In the meantime, you’ll just have to careful to hide your powers from him.”
“Alright,” he said with an angry sigh. “I’m going to go finish up my chores while Xander’s busy, since I won’t be able to do them the way I usually do with him around.”
Martha and Jonathan exchanged a concerned glance as the moody teenager went outside.
* * * * *
Xander was less than surprised by the presence of the unnamed Valkyrie he met after Yve had died. “I thought you weren’t going to be hanging around the way Yve did?” he said with a frown.
“I wasn’t,” she answered. “I was sent to offer you counsel. The All-father knew this place would trouble you greatly after what you’ve been through.”
“You were sent to counsel me?” Xander replied, sinking down to sit on the edge of his bed. “Alright, counsel away.”
“Your family’s life here will be no more, or less, dangerous because of your presence here,” she said evenly. “There is more to this town than meets the eye and if you stay, you will find powerful allies for the battles to come.”
“And if I leave?” he asked. “What if I try to protect them from the insanity that is my life?”
“You will walk a path of loneliness,” she answered. “You will face your greatest enemies alone and be solely responsible for what comes. It will be a long and tiresome road.” The Valkyrie’s expression turned sad, “You will also hurt your family badly if you leave, not to mention the pain you will cause your friends.”
“So I should stay then,” he said after a long moment of consideration. He couldn’t bear the thought of hurting the Kents. They’d gone out of their way to try and help him and he couldn’t repay that with pain. He sighed, “Should I tell them my secrets…the truth about me and Sunnydale? Or would they even believe me?”
She chuckled at his question, “The grand irony of that question will be known in its own time. Do as you will with your secrets, it is your decision to make. In the end, what is meant to be…will be.”
“You know that’s really not much help,” he complained, glancing away from the Valkyrie as he heard a door bang closed. When he looked back to her a moment later, she was gone.”
“Figures,” Xander muttered bitterly, “You still didn’t tell me your name…” With a sigh he stood up and went back to putting away his things.”
* * * * *
When Xander came down a few minutes later, he was carrying a large envelope he’d been given by Lindsay MacDonald. Inside it were all the papers the Kents would need to take legal guardianship of him as well as the papers to complete the insurance settlements from the fire. He’d come to a couple of decisions after his discussion with the Valkyrie.
First off, he’d decided to leave the question of whether or not he stayed up to the Kents. He knew what his aunt and cousin thought, but if his uncle wanted him to go somewhere else, he would abide that decision. No matter what, he refused to have his presence create problems for his only living family worth claiming. Second, he decided that, for now at least, his secret would remain just that…a secret. It was asking far too much to expect them to believe or accept the bizarre reality of his life. Claiming to be the mostly mortal, but sort of immortal, descendent of the Norse God of Thunder would certainly land him in a looney bin, even though he had the powers to back up the claim.
Xander was slightly surprised to find his Aunt Martha and a man that could only be his Jonathan Kent waiting on him. “Hi Uncle Jonathan,” he said with a smile at the farmer.
“Xander,” his uncle said with a smile of his own, “it’s good to see you again, son. Seems you’ve done a lot of growing since your last visit…” The older man offered Xander his hand and they exchanged a firm, but friendly, handshake.
The Aesir vaguely remembered his uncle had never been overly fond of touchy-feely, emotional stuff. “It seems like Clark did more growing than I did. It’s not fair that he’s younger than me and that much taller,” he complained with a chuckle.
“I made you a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches,” his aunt said, putting a plate with sandwiches, chips, and a pack of Twinkies on it down in front of the teen.
“Thanks, Aunt Martha,” he said with a grin. “I’m starved.”
The teen quickly wolfed down the food, as his aunt and uncle sat by quietly, smiling at him. He was just finishing up as Clark came back in from outside.
“All finished up, Clark?” Jonathan asked.
The other boy nodded and pulled up a stool of his own to the kitchen table. “Sure am,” he said with a bit of a smile.
“Thanks again, Aunt Martha,” Xander said as he favored her with a smile. “That really hit the spot.”
Seeing that Xander was finished, his uncle finally spoke up. “So, what’s that you’ve brought down with you, Xander?”
“Oh, uh, these are for you guys actually,” he answered offering the envelope to his uncle.
Jonathan looked a bit puzzled as he opened the envelope and pulled out a sheaf of papers. “What is all this?”
“Uh, well, it’s a bunch of legal paperwork,” Xander explained. “There’re papers you can file to become my legal guardians, if you’re serious about wanting to take me in. The settlement paperwork for mom and dad’s insurance is in there too, I couldn’t sign them since I’m a minor.”
“Where did you get these?” the senior Kent asked, surprised.
“The city of Sunnydale provided me an attorney to help me take care of everything after mom and dad died,” he said with a shrug, trying not to lie any more than necessary to keep his secrets. “I think they were worried I might sue because the fire department so long to respond to the 911 call about the fire at my house.” He chuckled bitterly, “They didn’t need to worry though; the fire department had its hands full with the gas station and surrounding buildings. They did the best they could. But the city put me up in a hotel, gave me a high-price lawyer on their dime and even gave me money to help me replace clothes and things.”
“Why didn’t you call us?” his Aunt Martha asked. “We could’ve helped or at least known what was going on…”
“I didn’t know how to get in touch with you,” he admitted honestly. “Mom told me to come here if anything ever happened to her, but she didn’t give me a phone number or address. And your phone number was unlisted, so I didn’t know how to find it.” He sighed. “As soon as I had taken care of everything and had all of this,” he gestured at the papers in Jonathan’s hands, “I got on a bus to Smallville. I figured that somebody around town could help me find you.”
“Xander?” his uncle asked a moment later. “It seems like everyone has decided what they think is best for you without ever asking you what you want,” he paused for a long moment. “Do you want to stay with us?”
“I can’t have what I want, Uncle Jonathan,” he answered sadly. “Mom’s not coming back no matter how much I want her to. She asked me to come here, so I did, but I don’t want to be a burden on anyone. If all three of you want me to stay, I will and gratefully. If not, I can find somewhere else to go…”
“Xander,” his aunt said softly. “We want you here, with us. But we don’t want you to feel like we’re forcing you into anything. If you don’t think you can be happy here, we’ll help you find a place where you can be…”
“I think I could be happy here,” he said after a moment. “I can remember being happy here before.” He smiled brightly, “But only if you’re sure…”
“We’re positive, Xander,” Clark put in with a smile of his own. “Besides, I’ve always wanted a big brother, even if he is shorter than me.”
The Aesir rolled his eyes. “Keep laughing, stretch,” he snarked back, “some of the best things come in small packages.”
Even Jonathan smiled at the playful banter between the boys. He could only hope that having Xander around would be good for Clark and that his son would be able to keep his secret from his cousin. At least until they could be sure that Xander hadn’t turned into his father over the last few years.
* * * * *
The discussion had quickly turned to more mundane matters from there. Things like needing to take Xander shopping for clothes and the problems they might have enrolling him at Smallville High. The former was necessary because what little clothing he had already replaced was hardly appropriate for fall or winter in Kansas and the latter resulted from Principal Snyder’s less than complimentary reports about him. They had also talked, at great length, about why Snyder had disliked him so much and why he had failed his freshman year.
Unfortunately, these things did nothing to reassure Jonathan. Xander was more than willing to admit that he was at fault for failing school. He explained about his best friend, Jesse, disappearing and how after that it didn’t seem like school meant anything. He explained how the principal had singled him and his friends out for their association with Buffy Summers. He also told them that Buffy had been expelled from her previous school, but that it wasn’t really her fault. It quickly became obvious to Jonathan that Xander was extremely loyal to his friends, even to the point of covering for them when they did something wrong. It had seemed pretty clear, to him at least, that Buffy Summers was a bad apple. And who names their child Buffy anyway?
“Xander,” Jonathan began, not noticing Clark’s smile fade as his father slipped into lecture mode. “Loyalty to your friends is a wonderful thing and an admirable trait, but not at the expense of what you know is right.”
“I know that Uncle Jonathan,” he replied, accepting the man’s words with a nod of his head. “But sometimes the line between right and wrong just isn’t that clear. Sometimes you have to do something a little wrong today to stop something much, much worse from happening tomorrow.” The look on Xander’s face was grim and determined. “The world’s not a black and white place, Uncle Jonathan. Black and white rules don’t always work. I always try to do the right thing, but sometimes the choices aren’t between right and wrong, but the lesser of two evils.”
Jonathan sat speechless for a long moment, staring at the young man. For just a moment he saw something in Xander’s eyes, something old and jaded. He never noticed Clark’s look of amazement as the older boy’s response seemed to completely de-rail his moralizing. “Xander,” he said finally, “you can always do the right thing. It’s just not always easy.”
“The right thing is never easy,” Xander replied with a sad smile. “That’s part of how you know it’s the right thing.” A long pause followed and Jonathan was surprised by the pain he could see in the young man’s eyes. Somewhere along the way, his nephew had picked up the weight of the world to carry on his shoulders. “I can only promise that I’ll always try to do what’s right,” he finally said. “It’s what I’ve always done.”
Suddenly Jonathan knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was more to his nephew’s story than he’d been told. “You know your aunt and I will always try to be here to help you when you have doubts…right? You can come to us anytime about anything?”
“I appreciate that, Uncle Jonathan, I really do,” the Aesir said with a genuine smile before shooting a glance at Clark.
The younger boy spoke up almost instantly, recognizing Xander’s silent plea, “Hey Xan, how about I show you around the farm?”
“Sounds great, Clark,” Xander answered with a distinctly relieved smile.
The old farmer recognized an attempt to get away from a lecture when he saw it, but he let them go anyway. “Alright,” he relented. “You boys try not to get into any trouble before dinner though.”
“Sure thing, Dad,” Clark acknowledged as the two boys practically flew from the house.
* * * * *
Once they had gotten out of the house, the boys strolled out into the fields, enjoying the late afternoon. “So is he always like that?” Xander finally asked, clearly referring to Clark’s dad.
“He takes everything pretty seriously,” his cousin replied with a shrug. “He’s just trying to do what he thinks is right.”
“So was Hitler and look how that turned out,” the Aesir muttered. “Sorry, that was rude and uncalled for,” he said very quickly, hoping he hadn’t offended the younger boy.
“It’s okay, Xan,” Clark said. “He’s just trying to keep us safe.”
Xander sighed, not entirely sure how to respond to that statement. “I guess I’m just not used to people caring like that. Closest thing I had to caring parents in Sunnydale were my friends.”
“What about Aunt Jessica?” the other boy asked. “She seemed to care…”
“When she was sober, she cared,” Xander said simply. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t too often. It’s amazing that I’m not any more screwed up than I am, I guess.”
“You’re not screwed up,” Clark corrected automatically. “You’ve just been through a lot from the sounds of it, especially this last year.”
‘If you even knew the half of it,’ Xander thought sadly. ‘You’d probably run screaming…or have me committed.’
“Yeah, I guess,” is what he actually said in response.
* * * * *
“Jonathan, it sounds like Xander went through a lot last year,” Martha Kent said, unknowingly echoing her own son. “Even before he lost his parents. We just have to give him some time and space to adjust. He’ll tell us his secrets when he’s ready.”
“What if he doesn’t Martha?” Jonathan asked. “Whatever was going on in Sunnydale, it sounds like people were getting hurt and they were covering it up.”
“It could be anything, Jonathan,” Martha replied. “I don’t think Xander would hurt anyone or help anyone else do such a thing either. Not after what Tony was doing to him.”
“I just don’t like secrets like this, Martha,” her husband reiterated.
“That’s why Clark still doesn’t know about the ship in the storm cellar?” she asked sweetly.
“That’s not the same thing,” he said, stopping short at her word. “We’re trying to protect Clark.”
“And what if Xander is trying to protect us?” she countered, turning his words back on him.
“It’s not his job to protect us,” the farmer insisted stubbornly. “We’re the adults. We’re supposed to be the ones protecting him, not the other way around.”
“Jonathan,” Martha began softly, trying to get him to see reason. “He’s not used to having someone else look out for him. Tony and Jessica left him to fend for himself and Tony even abused the boy. You have to give him time to trust us.”
Jonathan sighed, knowing in his heart that his wife was right. Trust needed to be built on both sides. It would take some time, but it had to be done.
Martha smiled as her husband’s shoulders slumped, a sure sign he’d realized that she was right about this at least. When the phone rang a moment later, Jonathan got up to get it as Martha continued to work on preparing dinner. A few minutes later, Jonathan came back into the kitchen, a concerned expression on his face. “Who was it?” she asked.
“It was Jim Taylor,” the farmer replied. “He just got a call from a friend of his on the Metropolis Police Department. It seems that Xander was mentioned in a police report about an attempted mugging last night. He thought we should know.”
Martha frowned. Jim was the Kent family attorney and she had asked him to help find Xander earlier today. That Xander had a run-in with the police on his only night in Metropolis was certainly worrisome. “Is he in any trouble?”
“Not as far as Jim can tell,” he said simply. “Another law firm, Wolfram and Hart, are apparently looking to ask him some questions though.” He looked upset as he sat down. “Jim says this firm is bad news though. It’s involved in representing some fairly unsavory people, people like Lionel Luthor. He couldn’t find out anything more about their involvement or Xander’s.”
“We’ll have to ask Xander what happened,” Martha suggested.
“You’ll have to ask me what?” Xander asked from the door as he entered the house suddenly.