Chapter 33 – Road Trip III
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 we are again with the next installment of the story, pretty much right on schedule. I want to thank everyone once again for all the lovely feedback and encouragement, both for the story and for my continued recovery. I've finally been given permission to start working on weight bearing and learning to stand up and walk again, so while rehab is about to get a lot more intense, I'm going to try very hard to keep to the once a week update schedule. Hopefully, it'll all work out okay.
-== Chapter Thirty-Three – Road Trip III ==-
“So if Chloe and Willow aren’t actually metahumans, then what are they?” the Aesir asked after a brief pause while he considered Hermes’ words.
The Messenger had been afraid that Xander was going to ask him that question. He took a long moment to consider what he could tell Xander, what he couldn’t reveal without angering Zeus, and what there was no way in Hell he was going to be the one to tell his cousin. It really didn’t leave him much that he could say, despite having given the Thunder God his word that he would help him find the answers. Luckily, he could at least manage to dodge the blame for the lack of answers he would give the Aesir…
“I regret that I cannot tell you much of the source of either of their powers, Xander. Between the laws of Zeus and the rules that the Powers that Be are still able to enforce, I am bound to keep some things secret,” he said feigning a deeper regret than he actually felt. “I’m afraid only Chloe’s mother can reveal the truths behind the origins of her daughter’s abilities. What I can reveal is that Ms. Sullivan has only just begun to tap into the powers that her heritage will afford her.” He paused again, carefully considering how to phrase what he said next.
“Willow on the other hand, has been gifted with a tiny fragment of the power of an entity that rules over several dimensions and who is widely thought to be nearly omnipotent,” he explained cautiously. Strictly speaking, that was the absolute truth; he was merely leaving out a few details…like the fact that Trigon was utterly and irredeemably evil and that he planned to use that fragment of his power to gain a foothold in this dimension. After all, why trouble Xander with details that would only upset him when there was nothing he could do about it yet?
“So what you are saying is that while Chloe’s abilities are inherited from her mother, Willow is possessed?” the Thunder God demanded, clearly displeased with the latter answer far more than the former.
“Absolutely not!” the Olympian protested instantly. “I never said that Willow was possessed. Regardless of the source of her abilities, they are just that: her abilities. She controls them, not the other way around. Or at least, she will control them, once she learns how.”
“And how exactly is she supposed to learn to control her powers when she doesn’t know anything about them?” the teen asked pointedly. “And for that matter, how is Chloe supposed to learn to master her abilities when her mother hasn’t been seen or heard from in years?”
Hermes was careful not to let his relief at the shift of focus in his cousin’s questions. This, at least, was much safer territory and would allow him much more leeway in what he could say without angering the volatile young deity. “Willow’s powers are not entirely unlike mortal magick in many ways…and yet they are entirely different in others.” The older god considered the situation carefully for a moment, pondering the best way to help the girl. “She should first study the meditation and centering techniques found in most magickal texts. Once she develops enough mental discipline to be able to access her power consistently, she should talk to your Green Lantern friend. Their methods of focusing and applying their abilities are remarkably similar.”
Xander nodded, feeling an almost immediate sense of relief. If he of all people could learn to master some of those techniques from a book, which was precisely what he’d done in an effort to control his power over the weather, then Willow would have little difficulty with it. He’d never seen Willow have any trouble learning anything…especially if she found it even remotely interesting or potentially useful, and once she got far enough along, he was sure he could persuade Midori to help her from there.
“What about Chloe?” he asked after a moment, moving on to his next concern.
“Chloe’s abilities are somewhat more mercurial in nature,” the God of Thieves replied, smirking as though the statement was some sort of inside joke that Xander was missing out on. “What abilities has she developed so far?”
The Thunder God quickly related the events of the morning as Chloe had described them to him earlier. The story brought a thoughtful frown to his cousin’s face. When the Olympian didn’t immediately respond, the Aesir quickly inquired, “What’s wrong, Hermes?”
“Oh…nothing is really wrong per se,” Hermes answered with a comforting smile. “I was just rather surprised that she is developing psychokinetic abilities first, though I suppose I shouldn’t be given her more…intellectual focus.”
“Wait,” Xander said immediately, picking up on the god’s unintentional implication. “You know what abilities she will eventually develop then, just not what order they’ll appear in?”
“Not in the least,” the Messenger countered. “I have some idea of what abilities she may develop because I know what she is, but it’s more in the manner of educated guesses that could be entirely wrong.” He grinned broadly and continued before the Aesir could interrupt him. “And no, I can’t tell you what powers she might develop for the same reasons I can’t reveal the truth about the origins of her powers.”
“Alright, then how do we help her learn to control her abilities then?” Xander asked, not entirely keeping his frustration with the situation out of his voice.
“Unfortunately, there’s no magic answer for helping Chloe master her abilities, any more than there was a magic answer for helping you master your abilities,” Hermes answered apologetically. “Her powers are extensions of her will, much like the powers of a god or goddess…only on a different scale. It’s only a matter of trial and error and practicing what works. Moving objects with her mind should be fairly simple overall since she’s clearly already figured out how to do it. What she really needs to learn now is just how much concentration any given task requires.”
“I’m not sure I follow,” the Aesir admitted after a moment. “What do you mean?”
“Think of it like physically lifting an object,” the Olympian explained, “lifting a book requires less effort than lifting a locomotive. The same concept applies to lifting objects with your mind. Chloe’s hairbrush flew out of control because she concentrated too hard for such a small, lightweight object.”
“That makes a surprising amount of sense,” the teen admitted. “Just how strong is Chloe’s mind though?”
“Again, that’s something you’ll have to figure out with Chloe’s help, but I would be surprised if she wasn’t considerably stronger mentally than a normal human would be physically. Though she’s probably not on the same scale as you and Clark are.” Hermes said with a smile. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s all the help I can be, and regrettably I’m needed elsewhere. If you’ll excuse me…”
Xander nodded, “I understand. Thanks for the help, Hermes.” The God of Messengers, however, had vanished long before he finished saying thank you.
* * * * *
Midori had just finished with what was rapidly becoming the most important part of her morning routine, recharging her power ring, when her cell phone rang. Since there were precisely two people who had her phone number at this point and one of the two was downstairs in his study, it wasn’t difficult at all to figure out who was calling.
“Hey Chloe,” she answered happily as she slipped her power lantern back into the extra-dimensional hiding place that the ring’s AI had taught her to create for it. “What’s up?”
“Hey Midori,” the blonde replied cheerfully. “What were your plans for today?”
“Aside from hooking up with you and the guys later, I hadn’t really made any. Did you have something in mind?” the Green Lantern asked curiously. Chloe didn’t strike her as the sort to call just to chat…not unless something important had happened and needed to be shared immediately.
“How would you feel about an impromptu road trip today instead of a research party?” came the somewhat cryptic reply.
“That kind of depends,” she said in response. “Where are we going, who all is coming and is it for business or pleasure?”
“Well, the where is LA,” Chloe explained. “Who all is going would be me, you, Xander and Clark, and it’s a mostly business trip. A friend of Xander’s seems to have developed superpowers of her own last night and is a little freaked out. We’re going to go do the show and tell thing and help her deal.”
“Wow…is it just me, or does Xander just seem to know all of the super-powered types so far?” Midori asked, rather surprised by the revelation.
“You only know the half of it,” the reporter commented glibly. “I woke up this morning and found out that you were right. I am a metahuman and I can move things with my mind.”
“Really?” she asked excitedly. “I’ve gotta say, on the list of metahuman powers that wouldn’t suck to have, telekinesis ranks pretty high.”
“Well, maybe it won’t once I learn how to control it,” the blonde explained. “Right now though, it’s dangerously hit and miss. I’m actually heading over to the Kent farm now. Xander’s going to try and help me work on getting a handle on it before we leave for LA,” she paused briefly. “You want to come along for the ride?”
The Green Lantern considered the invitations for a moment before answering, “Why not? I certainly don’t have anything more interesting to do. Besides, it’s like I said last night, we hot super-chicks have to stick together. Especially since with Xander’s friend joining the club, we now outnumber the guys.”
* * * * *
Lindsey McDonald stared across the street at the Metropolis offices of Wolfram and Hart and rubbed absently at his right forearm, where the mark of his new masters was hidden beneath his shirt and suit-coat. The heavy parchment envelope that held his letter of resignation was an uncomfortable weight in the inside breast pocket of his jacket, but it was nothing compared to the weight of the .40 caliber automatic pistol tucked into the back of his pants. He’d been given a job to do by his new masters, one that would ensure that his bridges with the Senior Partners and the rest of the firm were well and truly burnt in a very permanent fashion.
Outwardly, the lawyer gave no sign of nervousness or agitation, maintaining a calm façade that even a professional poker player would have admired. Inwardly, however, he was fighting what might have been one of the most important battles of his life as he struggled to find a way to survive the next hour of his life. He’d already betrayed the firm by striking his bargain with Hel and Hades, which meant that even crossing the threshold of the building could be fatal, or worse. Yet, by the same token, his new masters didn’t strike him as particularly forgiving. Failing to accomplish his assigned task would certainly be as bad as anything that Wolfram and Hart could dish out, if not infinitely worse. For the first time in his life, he’d left himself without a way out of a bad situation. His only option at this point was to see his suicide mission through and hope that Hel and Hades would be merciful if he died in the attempt.
Resolving himself to action, Lindsey crossed the street purposefully. He fixed his usual cool, impersonal smile on his face and entered the building as though nothing out of the ordinary were going on. To his surprise, nothing happened as he crossed the invisible line of magickal wards that protected the building. The security guards didn’t even appear to notice him as he strolled past and entered the elevator. Rather than questioning this oddly fortuitous chain of events, Lindsey calmly pressed the button for his boss’s floor and let out a soft sigh of relief as the doors slid quietly shut.
‘Maybe I have a chance of surviving this after all,’ he thought optimistically.
The elevator doors opened up on a perfectly ordinary hallway. The lack of any sort of security force presence reinforced the traitorous attorney’s optimism, right up until he reached Geoffrey Newman’s administrative assistant. Having committed himself to the necessary course of action, Lindsey proceeded to ignore the young woman’s protests and strode directly to Mr. Newman’s office door. He threw open the door to find an empty office, a fact which posed a serious setback to his plan.
“Mr. McDonald!” the CEO’s assistant exclaimed indignantly as she walked over and closed her boss’s office while glaring daggers at Lindsey.
“Where is Mr. Newman?” the attorney demanded, wondering not for the first time, if the CEO even bothered to come in on Saturdays, despite the fact that he insisted that every department maintain at least minimal staffing seven days a week.
“He’s in a meeting with the firm’s department heads all day,” she snapped angrily. “Whatever you want will have to wait until Monday morning, assuming that he’ll even see you after the way you barged in here today.”
Lindsey toyed with the idea of waiting until Monday to carry out his mission for the briefest of moments, but a sharp flare of pain in the forearm which bore his masters’ mark quickly informed him that would be a catastrophically bad idea. “Where is the meeting?” he asked coldly, making it clear that he would not be deterred.
“Conference room one,” the assistant replied haughtily, “but it’s your funeral if you interrupt this meeting without a damn good reason.”
“It may well be my funeral if I interrupt it,” the Texan acknowledged with a nod, “but it will definitely be my funeral if I don’t.” He looked the woman in the eye and felt an abrupt pang of guilt. If he managed to somehow survive the confrontation he was about to instigate in the conference room, his only path out of the building would put her squarely in his way. Even as he took a deep breath and tried to formulate a warning that wouldn’t result in her immediately phoning building security, he was left with the undeniable knowledge that doing such a thing would carry a price that he would have to pay.
Gritting his teeth, Lindsey made a conscious choice to do one selfless thing before he gave up that ability forever, regardless of the consequences. “Eve,” he said through clenched teeth, “if you value your life, don’t be here when I come back.” He stared at her for a long moment before turning away, secure in the knowledge that she had taken his warning seriously, even if he didn’t know what she would do with it.
Lindsey left the now speechless secretary in his wake as he strolled casually down the hall and into the conference room that held the most powerful men and women at the Metropolis branch of Wolfram and Hart. The room fell deathly silent the moment he opened the door and all eyes remained fixed on him as he ambled across the room toward Mr. Newman with a broad smile on his face. Inwardly, Lindsey was cursing this turn of events. The pistol he’d brought carried ten rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, yet there were fourteen people in this room alone. He had no doubt whatsoever that Hades and Hel wanted him to kill everyone in this room at an absolute minimum, but as it stood that would be a nearly impossible task.
“Mr. McDonald,” Geoffrey’s voice was as sweet as honey as he addressed the man who had dared violate the sanctity of his meeting. “I trust you have a *good* reason for this interruption?”
“Indeed I do,” Lindsey confirmed as he approached the head of the table where the CEO sat. He reached casually inside his jacket and withdrew the envelope containing his resignation and dropped it on the table in front of the other man. “I have irrefutable proof that someone in this room has betrayed the firm and entered into the service of two of the old gods, namely Hades and Hel.” He casually tossed the envelope onto the table in front of Mr. Newman. “I thought it should be brought to your attention right away.”
The flicker of surprise that flitted across Geoffrey’s face was so subtle and fleeting that most people - even highly observant ones - would have missed it, but to Lindsey it was priceless. It told him that this wasn’t some sort of elaborate trap prepared for him by the Senior Partners and Mr. Newman, which meant there was a chance he might just escape from ending up in one of Wolfram and Hart’s private hell-dimensions for all of eternity.
“If that’s true, then the Senior Partners and I will both owe you a debt of gratitude, Lindsey,” Mr. Newman said pompously as he picked up the envelope and broke the wax seal. The tone of his voice, however, implied a grave threat if this turned out to be something less than serious.
Lindsey clasped his hands behind his back, mere inches from where his pistol was concealed and smiled smugly. A strange sense of expectant anticipation filled him as he watched the man he was about to kill remove the sheet of parchment from the envelope and unfold it. As Mr. Newman’s eyes flicked over the letter of resignation, confusion clouded his features.
“I don’t understand,” Geoffrey said as he looked back at Lindsey.
Lindsey paused for just a moment as his right hand wrapped around the grip of his pistol before speaking. “Oh, I’m sorry…did I forget to mention the part where I’m the traitor?” With a motion that was far too smooth and effortless to have been entirely his own doing, the servant of Hades and Hel withdrew his weapon and fired a single round cleanly into the center of Geoffrey’s Newman’s forehead.
The moment that the CEO of the Metropolis office of Wolfram and Hart died, a painful burning sensation began radiating from the mark on Lindsey’s forearm. Ignoring it, the former minion of the evil law firm turned his handgun on his next victim and pulled the trigger again. With each shot fired, the pain grew and spread throughout his entire arm. By the third shot, the right sleeve of his shirt and coat had begun to smolder and the first of the department heads had reached the door as they tried to flee from Lindsey. By the fifth shot, the stench of burning flesh had filled the room and the pain in Lindsey’s arm had been replaced by a euphoric feeling of power. The department heads also realized at that point that trying to escape was futile as someone, or something, had sealed the door shut behind their would-be murderer as he entered the room. By the eighth shot, Lindsey’s right arm had been reduced to a bare, skeletal limb encased in the fires of his masters’ hell-dimensions and the grip of his pistol had grown soft from the heat.
Casting aside the now useless weapon, the former lawyer stared at his altered appendage for a moment. It was hideous to behold, gruesome in a way that clearly set him apart from the masses of humanity. At the same time, it seemed somehow beautiful to him, a clear mark of the favor he had earned from the Gods of Death that he now served.
Emboldened by the momentary pause in the massacre of their co-workers, two of the remaining department heads rushed at the man who had trapped them, thinking to take advantage of his distraction and overpower him. The larger of the two slammed bodily into Lindsey in an attempt to tackle him while the other man scooped up one of the office chairs and swung it forcefully at the murderer. The tackler and the chair struck Lindsey in nearly perfect unison.
Lindsey felt the impacts but was utterly unmoved by them. He smiled evilly as the same fire that burned away the flesh of his arm burned away the tattered remnants of his conscience. As his clawlike hand reached down for the poor fool that tried to tackle him, the real screaming began.
* * * * *
As Chloe brought her car to a stop on the driveway of the Kent farm, Xander and Clark came out to meet them. Midori grinned at her blonde companion and brought up their conversation from the previous night again.
“And you’re sure you won’t be upset if I ask Clark out?” the dark-haired girl asked again. “Because if you aren’t sure I can wait ‘til you are… I don’t want to screw up a potentially great friendship over a guy. Not even one as hot as either of the Kent brothers.”
“They definitely are easy on the eyes, aren’t they?” the blonde replied, recalling the very naughty dreams she’d had the night before and smiling at the recollection. “And I told you last night, Midori, go for it. I’d much rather see you and Clark happy together than have both of us miserable and pining.”
“And I still say that our local God has it bad for you, Chlo,” Midori countered. “You should ask him out…or better yet, just kiss the hell out of him before he ends up banging Aphrodite like a drum. If she really gets her hooks into him, no one else will stand a chance.”
By that point, the boys had reached the car, so Chloe let the Green Lantern’s remarks pass without comment. While some part of her, an increasingly large part she might add, really wished she could believe Midori’s assessment of the situation, she just couldn’t quite buy into it. Aside from that single, brief moment in the gorge after Xander told her who and what he was, she hadn’t seen any indication he had feelings for her. Of course, if he was fooling around with the Greek Goddess of Love, the way she was afraid he might be after last night’s display on the dance floor, there was no way in Hell he’d be interested in her.
“”Hey Chloe. Hi Midori, glad you two could make it,” Clark said with a broad smile as the girls got out of the car.
“Hey gals,” Xander said, his enthusiasm tempered with obvious concern. “How are you holding up after this morning’s weirdness, Chloe?”
“Surprisingly well, all things considered,” she admitted with a slight smile. “Though I’m kind of thankful for Midori mentioning that I wasn’t exactly a normal human last night…at least I had some warning before my abilities showed up.”
“So how is your other friend, Willow was it?” Midori asked. “We still meeting her in LA?”
“She’s still kinda freaked out,” the Aesir said with a sigh. “And she’s a little angry with me for keeping secrets from her. We’re meeting her on campus at UCLA in about three hours, which gives us some time before we need to take off.”
“Wait a second,” Clark declared as he finally registered what Chloe had said. “You’ve got powers now, Chloe? When did that happen? And is that why you needed to talk to your cousins this morning, Xan?” the Kryptonian teen clearly seemed hurt by being the last to know about Chloe’s abilities.
“It only happened about an hour or so ago, Clark,” the blonde said placatingly. “I woke up with the ability to move things with my mind this morning…”
“And I’m sorry I didn’t mention it to you, Clark, but yeah it was part of why I spent most of the past hour talking to my cousins and setting things up on the lower forty,” the Aesir admitted. “I was looking for ways to help Chloe and Willow learn to control their powers.”
“Did you learn anything?” Chloe asked immediately, Clark’s latest round of being emo instantly forgotten at Xander’s words.
“Yes and no,” the Thunder God replied. “Hermes wasn’t particularly forthcoming with details, but he did tell me a few things that might help.”
“What kind of things?” Midori asked after a moment when Chloe didn’t.
“Well, for one thing neither Chloe or Willow are actually metahumans, but all Hermes could tell me about the source of Chloe’s powers was that her mom was the only one who could explain it to her,” Xander explained with a frown at Chloe’s reaction. “He also said that she would probably develop other powers over time.”
Chloe shrugged off the strange feeling of déjà vu that the young God’s words had triggered and frowned at the news. “So my abilities come from the woman who abandoned my father and me years ago and just disappeared? Did he have anything useful to say?” The bitter edge to her voice made her feelings about her mother abundantly clear.
“Yeah,” the teenaged deity said sympathetically. If anyone could understand resenting a parent, he could. “Getting the hang of your abilities is a bit like me learning to control mine. Which means it’s a lot of trial and error and figuring out what works. He also said you need to think of it like physically lifting things. If you lift too hard, or concentrate too hard, for the amount of weight you’re lifting…”
“The object will go flying like my hairbrush earlier,” she filled in the thought with a nod, “That makes sense, strangely enough.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what I said too,” Xander commented with a smile. “So I gathered up some stuff for you to practice on, a bunch of rocks and stuff of various sizes so that we can also see just how strong you are, telekinetically speaking.”
A strange grin settled on Midori’s face before she turned to Clark abruptly. “Why don’t you show me around, Clark?” she said happily. “Chloe might do better without an audience at first and Xander should be more than adequate help for her.”
“Sure,” the teen answered with a nod and a devious smile as he decided that Midori had climbed aboard the ‘get Chloe and Xander together’ train. “Sound like fun to me.”
As Xander and Chloe watched the 4’10” Green Lantern and the 6’4” Kryptonian wander off together, a strange thought crossed the God’s mind and slipped out through his mouth before he could censor it, “Is she really interested in seeing the farm, or is she just looking for a place to check Clark’s tonsils with her tongue in private?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” the blonde answered in a strangely neutral tone after a moment’s consideration. “But I wouldn’t be surprised to find her making out with him. She seems like Clark’s type…”
“I’m sorry,” the Aesir said sincerely, despite his surprise at how okay she sounded with the idea of Clark and Midori hooking up. “I know how you feel about Clark and I didn’t mean…”
“It’s okay, Xander,” she interrupted, cutting him off with a smile. “Midori and I talked about it on the drive home last night and I’m okay with it. Clark and I aren’t meant to be and it’s time I got over it and moved on.”
“Really?” the Thunder God’s shock at that statement was rather obvious. “That…that’s great to hear. You deserve to be happy.” He looked, just for a moment, as though he wanted to say something more, but finally he just smiled almost sadly and said, “Come on, let’s go see about getting a handle on those powers of yours.”
As they walked together toward the largely unused lower forty acres of the Kent farm, Chloe couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, Midori wasn’t entirely wrong. Maybe Xander really did feel something more than just friendship for her…