Chapter 31 -- Road Trip 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: Well, here it is, the long awaited next chapter of the tale. It took longer than I hoped and I'm still not entirely sure that I'm completely happy with it, but at the least it's the kick start I need to get things rolling again. I'm recovering nicely, for those that are interested, with the exception of a mass of scar tissue in my left knee that's impeding the flexibility. I've got another month worth of physical therapy to try and break it up...or the doctor's going to do it for me which will be very, very painful. Either way, at the end of July, I start working on walking again, so yay me. I won't promise regular updates again just yet, but the writing is going slow but steady at the moment.
-== Chapter Thirty-One – Road Trip I ==-
The first dance of the new school year at Smallville High school didn't really end so much as it slowly died out over the hour or so before midnight. By the stroke of twelve; the official end of the event, only a handful of students remained in the gymnasium. It was, after all, a farming community and Saturday morning with all its attendant chores was hardly a real day off for most students.
Of course, Xander, Clark, Chloe, Pete and Midori were among the last to leave the dance, having enjoyed every possible moment of the event. Taking the time to enjoy life was one lesson quickly learned in Sunnydale and one Xander was determined to pass along to his new friends. Eat, drink, and be merry, because you never know when the world might end...or at least try to.
So it was late that the five smiling and laughing teens made their way across the darkened parking lot of the high school toward Chloe and Pete's respective cars even though neither Xander, Clark, or Midori actually needed, or had any intention of accepting a ride home. However, since Pete was blissfully unaware of that fact, they had to at least maintain appearances.
"So," Pete said, finally asking a question he wanted to ask all night. "Xander, who is that really hot girl you kissed on the dance floor tonight?"
The Aesir counted it a miracle that the other boy didn't seem to notice the sudden tension or half-shielded, sidelong glances the rest of the gang cast his way. "She was just a friend of mine," he said dismissively, praying that he let the matter pass. "She only kissed me to make someone else jealous...no big deal."
"No big deal?" Pete repeated in surprise. "That kiss got the attention of everyone in the room. You, my man, are about to become the number one topic of Smallville High's biggest gossips."
"So much for keeping under the radar," the Thunder God muttered. "Joy."
"I wouldn't worry about it too much, Xan," Chloe said with a knowing smirk. "You've been a favorite topic of discussion among the school's gossips since you got here. This is just more fuel for the fire."
Those words drew him up short for a moment. The revelation that he had been the subject of idle teenaged prattle for the past week shouldn't really have surprised him, but it did. Some part of him had thought that without the inherent weirdness of the Hellmouth in his life, he might go unnoticed here. Apparently, that wasn't meant to be.
"Well at least I'll be in good company, Xander," Midori chimed in a moment later. "I'm pretty sure I'll be joining you as a target for the gossipmongers when I show up for class on Monday."
"Probably," Clark agreed with a smile. "You're definitely different from most of Smallville's student body."
"I should hope so," the Green Lantern shot back with a smirk. "They broke the mold when they made me. I am one of a kind."
"And the world’s a safer place because of it," the Aesir snarked with a wink, alluding to her secret at the same time.
The girl fixed the Thunder God with a mock glare and stuck her tongue out at him before replying, "You know it."
"So, who's riding with who?" Pete asked as they reached his car.
"Well, I was planning on getting a ride with Chloe," Midori began quickly.
"And we were sort of planning on running with the girls," Clark jumped in just as quickly.
"Oh, I see how it is," Pete said with a smile on his face and mock hurt in his voice.
"No offense, Pete," Xander said with a grin. "But they're way better looking than you."
"I can't argue that," he replied with a shake of his head. "Be careful driving these jokers home, Chlo. I'll see you all at school on Monday."
"Take it easy, Pete," the Kryptonian said with a smile as his best friend opened the door to his car. The boy and merely nodded before climbing in, starting up the car, and driving off as the four remaining teens watched.
"Think he suspected anything?" Chloe asked after a moment.
"Nothing he didn't already suspect," Midori answered with a chuckle.
"What do you think he suspects?" Clark asked, oblivious to the obvious answer.
"Probably that we are pairing off as couples rather than just friends," Xander answered with a wicked smile.
"Oh," Clark said abruptly, his eyes widening slightly in embarrassment at missing the obvious conclusion.
"So, research party at the Kent farm tomorrow?" Chloe asked with a slightly forced smile.
"Yeah, or technically today since it's past midnight. Some time around two o'clock this afternoon sound good?" The Aesir offered in response.
"This sounds good to me," Chloe said with a nod that was matched by Midori. "You really want a ride home?" She asked looking at the new girl. "I know you can fly and all but you'd be surprised the attention that attracts around here."
"Sure," the Green Lantern replied after a moment's thought. "We can get in some girl talk on the way." She smiled brightly at the blonde.
For some reason, that statement left the Kent brothers exchanging concerned glances. Clark finally spoke up after a long pause, "Okay, we'll see you guys tomorrow then." A moment later both boys blurred off at superspeed.
* * * * *
Willow sat alone on her bedroom sometime later, staring blankly in the mirror. She replayed the events of the evening in her mind over and over again, struggling to understand what had happened. It seemed so surreal to her now, as if the things she had done, the power she had unleashed, had belonged to someone else. But even now she could feel the power coiled within her, waiting to be unleashed...if only she knew how.
Somehow, she had managed to keep her emotions in check as she freed Buffy and the others. And somehow her friends had bought the feeble excuses she made about not knowing how she got loose or even what had killed the vampires in the warehouse. Of all of them, only Miss Calendar had seemed to notice anything unusual about her afterwards, a fact which supported Willow's working theory about the nature of her newfound powers. After all, Miss Calendar was the only serious practitioner of the magickal arts that Willow really knew. Surely if the power she had inside herself was a form of magic like she thought it was then it made sense that Miss Calendar might be able to sense it.
'Or,' the tired girl thought wryly, 'I could be grasping at straws.'
'What I really need,' she decided at length, 'is unbiased advice. If I talk to Giles about this, he'll go all tweedy on me and we'll spend the next six months researching it. Miss Calendar might be able to help, if it really is a kind of magic, but if she mentioned it to Giles...' the redhead sighed heavily at the circularity of her internal arguments as she ruled out talking to Buffy about it as well. Anything of the sort said to *her* would be immediately repeated to Giles.
"I need my Xander-shaped friend," she said softly before looking at her bedroom clock and sighing again. It was past midnight in central Kansas, far too late to call the Kent farm. Unless her best friend called her, any talking about her generally wiggy night would have to be postponed until a more reasonable hour.
Despite the seeming absurdity of praying to a god she wasn't entirely sure she believed in, Willow did it anyway. "Please God," she whispered softly, "I need to talk to Xander about this. Maybe he'll know what I should do..."
* * * * *
As the young God of Thunder raced along the empty Kansas roads that led to the Kent farm, something strange happened. He abruptly heard Willow's voice, as clearly as if she had whispered in his ear in a quiet room. It wasn't the first time that evening that he'd thought of his bestest bud. Earlier in the evening, he had the strangest feeling that something was wrong in Sunnydale but it passed before he could do more than wonder about it. Even if it hadn't, he wasn't entirely sure what he could do about it, if anything. Jormungandr had done a very good job of tying his hands in that arena for the time being...
This time however, it wasn't some vague sense of uneasiness, or some inexplicable feeling of foreboding. This time he distinctly heard Willow's voice saying "Please God, I need to talk to Xander about this. Maybe he'll know what I should do." There was no mistaking it. Of course, he had no idea how it was even possible that he could hear Willow...unless this was what it was like to hear a prayer and that was a thought the Aesir found too creepy for words.
As Xander slid to a halt in front of the barn door on the Kent farm, he was already digging out his cell phone to call Willow. He was rapidly dialing the number when Clark looked back and saw the expression on his face.
"What's up, Xan?" The Kryptonian asked, immediately concerned by the look on his brother's face. "Who are you calling?"
"Uh, something’s up in Sunnydale," the older boy answered with a frown. "Willow needs to talk to me. Just don't ask me how I know."
"This another one of those god things? Like how you knew about Whitney and the others grabbing another scarecrow?" Clark inquired.
Xander shrugged before directing his attention to the phone. "Willow?" he asked immediately when someone picked up the phone the first ring.
"Xander?" came the shocked reply from his oldest friend. "Oh God, Xander, what happened? What's wrong?" The redhead asked, jumping to what she felt was the obvious conclusion. For Xander to be calling her at this at hour, something awful must've happened…
"Will, calm down. Nothing is wrong here, I just had this really strong sense that something had happened and you needed to talk to me." When the other end of the line went abruptly quiet at his words, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he really had
heard her voice earlier. "Talk to me Willow, 'cause the silence is freaking me out. Is everything okay? Did the Hellmouth open? Is it another apocalypse?"
At the word apocalypse, Clark whirled back toward Xander, eyes wide in shock. Two time zones away, the very same word jolted Willow out of her stunned silence.
"No, it isn't...wasn't an apocalypse," she answered quickly an effort to prevent Xander from panicking. "The Anointed One and the rest of the Master's remaining followers tried to resurrect him tonight."
"Oh God," the Aesir gasped in shock. Like the rest of the Scoobies, he'd never even considered such a thing was possible. "Did Buffy stop him? Is everyone alright?"
"Everyone's alright, except maybe for Buffy...she just hasn't been herself since she got back. But Buffy didn't stop him, Xan. *I* did." she said flatly before pausing to wait for the inevitable disagreement.
It was a response she never got. Instead of an amused denial of the possibility of such a thing, he Thunder God merely said, "Tell me everything, Will."
So she did. She told him how Buffy fell into the vampire's trap; and how the vampires had kidnapped them all in preparation for a sacrifice to resurrect the master. She told him how she had been the only one awake, about the terror she felt of the power that awoke in her. She even told him how good it felt – being powerful – and how afraid she was to tell Buffy or Giles what had happened.
Through it all, Xander listened thoughtfully. The next words out of his mouth came as a surprise even to him. "I agree Willow, telling Buffy or Giles about this is a bad idea…especially to Giles, he won't trust you to be responsible with your abilities. He'll automatically assume the worst and will research it to death, all the while lecturing you on how power corrupts..." surprisingly there was no malice in his tone as he spoke and very little bitterness.
"Xander...Giles maybe a little stuffy and kinda tweedy, but I don't think he would be that bad..." the redhead began to argue, defending the watcher.
"Willow, I speak from experience," the young man admitted with a sigh, finding himself regretting having ever tried to keep what he was from Willow. "Something happened and I'm not exactly an average guy anymore myself. I went to Giles and that's exactly how he treated me. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but it all got really complicated when mom and dad died and I thought it might be better if you and Buffy didn't know."
The phone fell utterly silent again as his words hit home. She'd known something was different with Xander after his parents died, but the idea that her best friend had kept a secret like this one from her... "Why?" She asked softly, the hurt in her voice obvious. "Why were we... why was I better off not knowing?"
"Because I can't come back to Sunnydale, Willow," he answered flatly. "I had to make a deal with a very powerful, very evil being after it killed my parents. As long as I don't set foot in Sunnydale before graduation day for you and Buffy, he doesn't kill everyone there that I care about."
"Why does that make it better than I don't know?" she demanded, anger seeping into her voice.
"Because knowing the truth about me might put you in danger and I couldn't be there to protect you," he snapped back. "And if something happened to you because of me, it would kill me."
The vehemence in Xander’s voice mollified her somewhat. "Tell me," she asked softly, "please."
"I will, Willow, but not over the phone like this," the Aesir replied with a tired sigh. "Can you get out of Sunnydale tomorrow...over to Oxnard or LA or anywhere that isn’t Sunnydale?"
"Mom has a conference in LA tomorrow afternoon. I could probably go with her, but why?" she asked confused.
"Because some stories are best told in person," he said flatly. "Besides, I have a couple of friends that would probably love to meet you."
"Xander, you are talking about a trip halfway across the country, how are you going to get here?"
"I thought I might fly, Will, or maybe run...of course, that would take a little longer," he wasn't really surprised when his glib response left Willow speechless.
* * * * *
The car was quiet as Chloe pulled out of the Smallville High School parking lot. The blonde was somewhat surprised at how awkward the silence felt.
"So..." Midori finally began a few moments later, "Are you going to totally hate me if I ask Clark out?"
Taken aback by the blunt question, Chloe's jaw dropped open. As the sudden tension in the air seemed to spread through the vehicle, she was forced to reassess her definition of awkward. "Uh... what makes you think it would hate you for that?" she asked after a moment, falling back on her usual response when confronted about her feelings for Clark: denial.
"Because I saw how you spent half the night watching Clark and the other half watching Xander," the Green Lantern admitted frankly. "Whenever someone else danced with either of the Kent brothers you got this look on your face..."
"What look?" she demanded defensively.
"Like you wanted to be the one dancing with them," Midori replied calmly. "And who could blame you? They're both bona fide hotties and superheroes to boot. On top of that they are genuinely nice guys. It's a combination anyone would find irresistible." She smiled at Chloe sympathetically. "Besides, you've had a long while to fall for Clark's farm-boy charms and yet for some reason you two aren't a couple..."
"Unfortunately, Clark just never saw me that way," Chloe confessed with a sigh, "and I kind of doubt he ever will."
The car fell quiet again for a few moments as both girls seem to be a loss for what to say next. "At least Xander's not as blind as Clark in that regard," the dark-haired girl offered in consolation.
The blonde turned to Midori with a surprised look on her face. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"Chloe, honey, your attention may have been divided between both of the Kent brothers, but Xander's eyes hardly left you all night," the Green Lantern smiled softly. "He may be a god, but he's also seriously got it bad for you..."