Chapter 32 – Road Trip 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: Well, I think I'm officially past the worst of my writer's block. I'm still not able to be quite as productive as I'd like to be, given the other distractions in my life at the moment, but for the time being I hope to be able to go back to weekly updates every Wednesday, presuming that my beta can keep up and I can stay consistent. At any rate, enjoy!
-== Chapter Thirty-Two– Road Trip II ==-
Compared to most farms in Smallville, Saturday mornings on the Kent farm were practically sedentary. This came, in no small part, as a result of the speed with which Xander and Clark could accomplish a list of chores which would take a handful of grown men all day to complete. As such, it was hardly unusual for the elder Kents to sleep in until all of 6 a.m. on weekends, sometimes even 6:30, a luxury that was quite uncommon among farmers. Xander, however, found himself sleeping less and less as his mind finally began coming to terms with the fact that his body no longer required such frequent rest. So far, he typically dozed for a short while each night but rarely for more than three or four hours, and he almost never slept past sunrise.
Clark, on the other hand, slept exactly like a typical teenage boy and hardly ever woke up early without the aid of either an alarm clock or external assistance. The irony of Clark's sleeping patterns being the most normal thing about him was not lost on any member of the Kent family.
To anyone outside of the Kent family, it would have seemed like a completely ordinary Saturday morning. However, such an outsider perspective would have been wholly incorrect. After his conversation with Willow a short while after midnight, Xander had found himself completely incapable of sleeping. He was understandably nervous at the prospect of seeing Willow again after such a long absence and even more so at the idea of telling her the truth about what happened to him. What made him most anxious, however, was Clark's insistence that they get permission from their parents before running off to Los Angeles. The Kryptonian had stubbornly refused to accept Xander's position, which was that sometimes forgiveness was easier to come by than permission. The younger Kent had also been quite adamant about informing their parents that both Chloe and Midori now knew both of their secrets. Luckily, Xander had been able to persuade him to at least wait until they got back from LA before dropping that particular bomb.
Since he'd been unable to sleep, the Aesir had decided to engage in a time honored teenage tradition: buttering up his parents in an effort to get what he wanted. He started by getting an early start on the day's work. In a matter of a couple of hours, he took care of every household chore on the farm that didn't have to be accomplished at a particular time, like feeding livestock did, and that wouldn't disturb the sleeping members of the family. In doing so, he assured that his adopted mom and dad would get something truly rare on a farm: an entire day (more or less) off from work.
As the sun rose, the young god went one step farther and made breakfast. His ability to cook certain simple meals, like the pancakes he had chosen for this particular morning, was one of his more closely guarded secrets. It was a skill acquired from entirely too many years of having to fend for himself in the Harris household and was kept secret to avoid discussing exactly why he knew how to do such things. This morning though, he figured he needed all the help he could get in regards to his parents. It was probably a little over the top and might even make them suspicious of what he wanted, but it was a risk he was willing to take in order to be there for his best and oldest friend.
So it was that Martha and Jonathan Kent woke that Saturday morning to the smells of freshly brewed coffee, sizzling bacon and pancakes. It was, in fact, such an unusual way for Martha to wake up that the enticing aromas pulled her from her bed before Xander was anywhere near finished cooking. She wasn't entirely sure what to expect as she entered her kitchen and was rather taken aback by what she found. The sight of Xander preparing breakfast in a calm, efficient, and well-organized manner was a complete surprise to her.
"Xander?" She asked, with no small amount of shock clearly evident in her voice. "What are you doing?"
"Good morning," the teen replied, flashing her best grin. "I thought I'd give you a break and make breakfast this morning..."
"I can see that," she said with a slight frown, "but why?"
"I, uh, couldn't sleep last night," he answered honestly. "I just had too much on my mind and needed something to distract me. So, I did all of today's chores that I could, got cleaned up and decided to fix breakfast."
"What's wrong?" Martha asked instantly, concern replacing the shock she'd initially felt. She could tell from Xander's tone, his bearing, and a hundred other subtle cues that are commonly called a mother's intuition, that something bad had happened.
"Something happened in Sunnydale last night, mom," he admitted after a long, silent pause. "I needed to be there, but I couldn't and everyone I still care about in Sunny-Hell nearly died."
"Oh God, Xander," she exclaimed rushing over to comfort the obviously hurting youth. "What happened? Is everyone alright?"
"They're okay, for the most part. Somehow Willow... changed," he began hesitantly. "Some kind of power inside her woke up and she destroyed a dozen vampires in an instant. She saved them all from being sacrificed to resurrect a dead vampire, but she's freaked out because she doesn't know what's happening to her or why or even who to turn to." He took a deep breath and plunged ahead with the next part.
"I'm meeting her in LA this afternoon, and I want Clark to come with me," he blurted out before jumping into his justification. "She needs to know she's not alone in being different and having special abilities. I'm even hoping that I can convince one of my Olympian or Asgardian cousins to help find someone who can teach her to control her newfound powers..."
Martha considered what Xander was asking for a long moment before responding. In the short time since the boy had come to live with them, she felt like she'd come to understand him. There was no doubt in her mind that the young man had every intention of going to Los Angeles whether they gave him permission to or not. The people he cared about were just too important to him to let a little thing like the possibility of getting in trouble or being grounded stop him. The fact that he was asking at all, if you could really call it that, could only be Clark's influence at work.
The real problem wasn't the fact that he wanted to go to LA; it was that he wanted to reveal his secret, as well as Clark’s, to someone neither she nor Jonathan had ever met. It wasn't something Xander would bring up lightly, especially not without talking to Clark first. "What did Clark say when you mentioned it to him?"
"That he'd only go if I got permission first, and he wouldn't commit to revealing his secret, not without meeting Willow first," the Aesir hated that he can only tell his adopted mom half of the truth, but he could hardly add that his brother wanted to see if Midori was going and what she told Willow before making up his mind. "I promised not to pressure him either, it's entirely his choice."
She nodded her head after a moment. "Are you going to run or fly?" She asked after considering it a little longer. She was fairly certain there was something Xander was leaving out, but after everything her newest son had been through and done in the past few months, she felt she could trust him to do the right thing.
"Fly, if I can talk Clark into it," the Thunder God admitted with a grin. "It'll be faster for one thing and less likely to be noticed in this case..."
"What will be faster?" Jonathan asked as he entered the room at that moment.
"Something happened in Sunnydale last night and one of Xander's friends seems to have developed powers of her own," Martha answered immediately. "Xander and Clark are going to fly to LA for a while this afternoon to help her get a handle on things." There was no wavering in her voice, no indication that she was asking for even desired her husband's opinion on the matter.
The head of the Kent household recognized quite clearly that his wife had already made up her mind on the subject. It was rare for her to make a decision like this one before talking it over with him and it would be difficult if not impossible to persuade her to change her mind. However, after more than 20 years of marriage, Jonathan had learned how to couch his objections in such a way that avoided arguments on these highly unusual occasions.
"Martha, are you sure that’s such a good idea?" He asked in a calm, neutral tone. "Los Angeles is a big place and there are a lot of things that could go wrong... and can we really trust this friend to keep Xander's secret? And what if someone sees them flying across country like that?"
"We can trust Willow," Xander declared automatically. "I've known her since kindergarten and she helps Buffy keeps Sunnydale safe. She's probably better at keeping secrets than I am." The young god smiled at that thought. "And it's not like Clark and I can't take care of our selves, especially since I'll have Mjolnir and my gauntlets with me. And as for anyone seeing us, we’ll be careful. Even if someone did see us, I fly fast enough that all they’d see is a blur, just like when we use our super-speed," His voice softened noticeably as he continued, "She's my oldest, dearest friend and she needs me. I can't ignore that, dad..."
Looking from the newest member of the Kent family to his wife and back, Jonathan knew his objections had fallen on deaf ears. The look of quiet resolve on Martha's face made it quite clear that her mind was made up and he didn't doubt for even a moment that Xander wouldn’t hesitate to defy him if he forbade the teen from going. "Alright," he reluctantly conceded, "just promise me you'll be careful and you both still have to get your chores finished before you leave."
A broad smirk spread over the teen's face as he spoke, "I already did all of my chores, all of Clark's chores, and most of yours and mom's for the day. Oh, and I made breakfast..."
* * * * *
Chloe was pulled out of a very pleasant, if mildly disturbing, dream involving her, Clark, and Xander by the sound of her cell phone ringing. The sounds of Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyrie' blaring from the device's woefully inadequate speaker told her two things. First, that it was Xander on the other end of the call and second, that she left her phone on the dresser which was completely across the room from her. She sat up and glared across the room at the offending object, wishing for a brief moment that she could just will the phone across the room and into her hands so she didn't have to get up...
At which point, to her deep and abiding shock, her phone seemed to practically leap off her dresser and land softly in her lap, exactly the way she imagined it... except for the part where she wasn't holding out her hand to catch it. The phone quickly fell silent while the blonde stared at it as though it had done the impossible... which it had, actually. Her mind raced through the possibilities as Midori's comments on her unusual neural patterns resurfaced in her thoughts. Perhaps this was the reason...
'Only one way to know for sure,' she quickly decided. Chloe turned her attention to a hairbrush lying on the same dresser her phone had recently occupied. She concentrated on the object, willing it to rise off the dresser slowly, fly across the room, and land in her outstretched hand. Her focus seemed to narrow for the briefest of instances and suddenly the brush flew towards her as though it had been thrown at her with tremendous force.
Reacting on instinct, the reporter threw both her arms up and across her face to protect her head from the incoming blow. She was surprised when the impact never came. Instead, the improvised missile seemed to deflect off an invisible barrier, struck the ceiling firmly and dropped to the floor. She stared at the brush for a long moment as she tried to understand what had just happened.
Her experiment made it clear to her that she had the ability to move objects with her mind. Unfortunately, she obviously needed to learn how to control her newfound power. Chloe was also fairly certain she had managed to somehow create a barrier that saved her from what should have been, at the very least, a rather painful smack with that brush, only it had been a reflex instead of a conscious effort. Quickly deciding that she was completely out of her depth, she did the only thing she could rationally do... get help from the only experts she knew.
She scooped up her phone and called Xander back. If anyone could help her get a grip on this utterly weird situation, it was bound to be either Smallville's resident god, alien, or Green Lantern. And since Xan called her first, he was the perfect place to start.
* * * * *
Xander flipped his cell phone shut with a frown. He was more than a little surprised that Chloe hadn't answered, after all, it was nearly 10 a.m. and she hadn't struck him as such a late riser. Clark, on the other hand, could probably sleep an entire day away if left to his own devices. Since the vast majority of the day's chores had already been completed well before sunrise, Xander had been able to convince his adopted parents to enjoy a genuine day off. A day they decided to spend with a trip to Metropolis. With the adult half of the Kent family already halfway to the city, the Aesir was letting his Kryptonian brother enjoy a rare opportunity to sleep in while he waited for Willow to call him with details about when and where they could meet.
He decided to call Chloe and invite her to join them on their impromptu road trip as early as he thought polite, so that she could have plenty of time to make excuses for her absence. He also hoped that Chloe had had the foresight to get a phone number for Midori, since he hadn't and he wanted to include Smallville's newest superhero in this outing as well. He wasn't entirely sure why, but for some reason he couldn't rationally explain, it seemed important that Chloe and Midori came with them. And if nothing else, the Aesir had learned to trust his hunches.
As he moved to slip the phone back into his pocket, it abruptly began to ring. A precursory glance at the display as he flipped it open revealed the caller's identity and brought an instant smile to his face. "Hey Chloe," he answered happily. "I hope I didn't wake you... I thought you would be up by now..."
"Hey Xan," the blonde replied with a strange note of tension in her voice. "Guess I was more tired after yesterday than I thought I was... I didn't realize how late it had gotten." She trailed off uncertainly as the unsure of how to continue.
"Is everything okay, Chloe?" The Aesir asked automatically, growing concerned for his friend.
"Well, uh, something kind of weird happened after I woke up this morning..." Chloe began tentatively.
"Tell me everything," the Thunder God replied without hesitation.
The reporter took a deep breath to organize her thoughts and then quickly and succinctly filled Xander in on the strange events of her morning so far. She stuck entirely to the facts of the story, leaving her suspicions and theories out of her explanation. After all, she had no way to prove her theory and had no desire to bias her only real expert's opinion of the events.
The Aesir, however, quickly arrived at a few theories of his own, theories he felt fairly certain he could confirm. It struck him as more than a little suspicious that two of his best friends seemed to have developed unusual abilities in the past day. "Chloe," he began hesitantly, "it could just be that you're a meta-human like Midori thought and your abilities have begun to manifest..."
Chloe picked up the undertone of doubt in Xander's voice almost instantly. "But you don't think that's what it is," she countered bluntly. "What do you think it is, Xan?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly, "but you're the second one of my friends to spontaneously develop powers since yesterday evening. It seems a bit unlikely that it's just coincidence."
"Who else has joined the superhuman club?" She asked curiously.
"Willow did, last night," the Thunder God said with a sigh. "She somehow destroyed a dozen vampires and saved the lives of everyone in Sunnydale that I care about. It's why I was calling you this morning. Clark and I are going to LA to talk to Willow and help her come to grips with what happened... she was pretty shaken up. I wanted you and Midori to come with us."
"Xander, how are we going to get to LA and back today?" She asked, surprised by the idea.
"Well, I figured Midori and I could fly and I could carry you easily enough. Clark would probably run, since he's a bit skittish about heights," the Aesir explained. I figure the trip would probably take 30, 45 minutes tops."
"One of these days, I'm going to get used to just how fast you guys can move," the blonde complained halfheartedly. "Okay, I'm in. Did you want me to call Midori for you? I don't think anyone else got her phone number..."
"Would you mind?" The teenaged god asked. "Why don't you and Midori, if she's coming too, come over soon as you're ready? Mom and dad are on their way to Metropolis, so maybe we can figure out a way for you to learn to control your abilities before we have to take off for the coast... or at least get a start on it."
"Okay, I still have to clean up and get dressed though... give me an hour or so?" Chloe agreed with a glance at the clock.
"That's fine, I still have to get sleeping beauty up anyway and it will give me some time to do a little research," Xander said with a smile. "See you soon..."
* * * * *
Lex Luthor was sitting calmly behind his desk at the Luthor mansion, reviewing the preliminary reports his investigators had provided on Clark and Xander Kent when he heard the distinctive sounds of a helicopter approaching. There was only one person Lex knew who would go to all the trouble flying to Smallville in a helicopter and that was his father. The thought of a visit from Lionel put Lex into a bad mood almost instantly. As the noise of the vehicle rapidly increased and it quickly became apparent that it was landing on the grounds, the younger Luthor mentally prepared himself for another round of battle against his father. A quick review of the week left him with only a single logical conclusion: this visit had to have something to do with his car accident. It was the only thing he'd done that might have attracted Lionel's attention.
As the sounds of the helicopter changed and slowed down before fading altogether, Lex put on his best smirk, closed the screen on his laptop computer and waited for his father's arrival. He wasn't disappointed when Lionel burst through the door of the study a few moments later, followed by his favorite drone and personal assistant, Dominic Santori.
"Congratulations, Lex," his father began without preamble, "you almost adequately cleaned up your own mess for once. Your rather spectacular near death experience earlier this week barely even got noticed back in Metropolis."
"What can I say, dad," the young man replied facetiously. "There's a lot less paparazzi to deal with in Smallville. Or perhaps I should apologize for not dying once and for all?"
Lionel's facial expression shifted ever so slightly from one of condescension to one of annoyance. "Don't be ridiculous, Lex. I've never wished you dead, son. I am
somewhat concerned about how you're dealing with your little brush with the hereafter though. You seem to be spending a rather large amount of money on investigating what appears to be a simple accident. I had assumed that even Smallville's limited police resources were more than adequate to such a task."
Lex's smirk never wavered, despite the fact that the only way his father could have known about his continuing investigations was for someone on his staff to have informed Lionel. This just meant that Lex had a few more of his father spies to identify and get rid of. "I wouldn't trust the Lowell County Sheriff's people to investigate anything more serious than a simple traffic violation," the younger Luthor countered, unfazed by the tack his father was taking. "We Luthor's have far too many enemies to assume this was some benign accident without a serious investigation."
Lionel frowned outright at Lex's words. His son had clearly learned his lessons far better than he thought. He was going to have to try a slightly different approach than he expected. "And that extends to the point of investigating even the two young men who saved your life? That seems a bit paranoid, even for you Lex."
"Better safe than sorry," Lex answered smugly. "After all, you certainly won't be winning any popularity contests in this town, dad. They're more than a few locals who wouldn't shed a tear if you or I came to a messy end."
"I didn't come to Smallville to be popular, Lex, I came to make money," Lionel replied archly. "If I managed to leave a handful of dissolute dirt farmers in my wake, it's a small price to pay."
"Farmers like Jonathan Kent?" His son countered. "I find it rather strange that a man like him... a man whose two sons risked their own lives to save mine, would hate you without a good reason. Yet I can't seem to find any evidence that you've ever had dealings with the man."
"Leave it alone, Lex," Lyle warned, his calm facade slipping just a tiny bit. "You're not going to find many allies in this town if word gets out that you're investigating the Kents. You really need to let go of this unhealthy obsession you've developed with your unfortunate car accident and concentrate on what I sent you here for in the first place."
"And what would that be?" The younger Luthor asked sarcastically.
"Why, turning around the fertilizer plant, of course," Lionel said with feigned surprise. "You can start by cutting your workforce by 20% to reduce your overhead."
"So you want my first act as manager of the plant to be firing almost a quarter of my employees?" Lex asked incredulously. "Why?"
"The entire industry is in a recession, Lex," Lionel pointed out patronizingly. "The plant simply isn't profitable enough to warrant such a large payroll. How else would you propose to deal with the situation?"
"I was planning to increase our workforce by 20%," Lex countered. "By increasing productivity and efficiency and increasing marketing while the rest of the sector is retreating, when the market bounces back we'll have the lion's share."
The expression on Lionel’s face made it abundantly clear that he was not amused by his son’s position. "You have two weeks to get rid of those workers, Lex, don't disappoint me again." Without another word, he turned and walked away with his loyal minion in tow.
Lex spent several long moments staring after his father. Whoever the Kents were, his father's reactions to his investigation confirmed at least one thing for him. There was more to this family than met the eye.
* * * * *
"Clark!" Xander bellowed from the bottom of the stairs, knowing that his brother could hear him well enough. "Chloe and Midori are probably going to be here in about an hour... and mom and dad are on their way to Metropolis! You might want to get up and get ready."
"Why are mom and dad going to Metropolis?" came a groggy reply a few moments later.
"Because I took care of all the work that needed to be done on the farm today already, including your chores," the Aesir yelled back. "And I got permission for both of us to go to LA, so get a move on. I'm going out to the barn to try and have a word with one or two of my cousins."
Without waiting for a response from the still half asleep Kryptonian, Xander made his way out of the house and over to the barn loft. The young god felt pretty secure in his belief that neither Willow nor Chloe's suddenly gaining superpowers was a coincidence, but he needed to know for sure. He also needed to know precisely whose meddling was responsible, so he could introduce them to the business end of Mjolnir for their troubles. Unfortunately, his personal inability to travel to Olympus and demand answers really only left him with one option.
As soon as he reached the top of the stairs to the loft, he took a deep breath and shouted loudly, "Hermes!" And if he wasn't entirely wrong, his cousin would be obligated to appear, being that he was the Messenger of the Gods and Xander was, in fact, a god himself.
"You don't have to yell, "a familiar voice said from just behind the Aesir. "The key is intent, as long as you want me to hear your call, I will, even if you just whisper it," the God of Travelers explained petulantly.
"Sorry, I wasn't entirely sure if it would work at all," Xander said as he turned to face his swift-footed cousin. "The problem, cousin, is that I have a few questions that need answering. Questions I figure you either know the answers to, or know who does..." There was an unusually hard edge to Xander's voice as he spoke, and it unnerved the Olympian somewhat. Even in Olympus, the temper of the Thunder God was well-known and respected, if not outright feared.
"What is it you want to know, Xander?" Hermes asked. "So long as you do not ask me to defy Lord Zeus, you have my word I will answer you or help you find the answers you seek." The Messenger had no intention of risking earning the Aesir's ire, not over something as trivial as questions anyway.
"Two of my friends abruptly developed special abilities in the last 12 hours, namely Willow and Chloe," the Thunderer replied bluntly. "Who's responsible for that?"
"What do you mean 'who's responsible'?" The Olympian asked with a frown. "Who's responsible for what?"
"Oh come off it Hermes," the Aesir spat in response. "What are the odds that all of my friends except for Pete would end up being superhuman? Chloe and Willow both being meta-humans couldn't possibly be coincidence. Someone is meddling in the lives of my friends and I want to stop. Now."
Hermes sighed. "Are you sure you want the answers you're asking for?" He asked the teenaged deity. "You aren't going to like all of them."
"Tell me," Xander answered flatly. "Who's responsible for this?"
"Neither Willow nor Chloe are meta-humans, strictly speaking," the Messenger said bluntly. "Both of them were destined to develop the powers they will eventually possess from the moment they were born. And technically, the only god that could be considered 'responsible' for it is you."
"What?!" Xander exclaimed, stunned by the revelation.
"You claiming Thor's legacy broke certain barriers the Powers that Be established in our reality. Those barriers prevented most human beings on this planet from acquiring superhuman abilities unless they were the chosen champions of the powers of good or evil," the Olympian explained. "If you had never broken those barriers, Willow would still have become a powerful witch and Chloe would have suffered from kryptonite poisoning, developing a single rather unusual ability."
"How do you know that?" The Aesir demanded, quickly recovering from his shock.
"Because I looked into both of their futures before you claimed your own powers," he said simply. "Willow did something truly extraordinary in that future, something that altered the balance between good and evil and quite nearly destroyed the world. Chloe would have given up her life to save someone she cared about. It was a future that left the fate of the world balanced on the edge of a knife, a future where a single misstep along the way could have destroyed the entire human race."
"And this future?" The teen asked after a moment.
"This future is unreadable by anyone short of the fates themselves. It's hard enough to see the futures of ordinary mortals who are trapped by their destinies, ruled by forces beyond their own comprehension," Hermes said with a smile. "But by claiming the legacy of Thor, you've given rise to scores if not hundreds or even thousands of extraordinary beings. Men and women whose simplest acts can alter the fate of the entire world, for good or ill."
"And how is that a good thing, exactly?" Xander questioned sarcastically.
"You've given humanity back the ability to control its own destiny, something it hasn't truly had since we gods first began to meddle in human affairs," came the Olympians reply. "How could that be a bad thing?"
The young god spent a moment considering the argument Hermes made before realizing that the older god made a good point. Giving humanity control of its own destiny may have been a mixed blessing, but it was indeed a blessing. Which really only left one more question on his mind for the moment...
"So if Chloe and Willow aren't exactly meta-humans, then what are they?"