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Thunder over Smallville: Book One

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Thunder over Smallville". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Sequel to An Echo of Thunder and Story #2 in the Thunder over Smallville series. Xander Harris arrives in Smallville to start his new life. How will the presence of a Thunder God affect life in this not-so-sleepy Kansas town?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Smallville > Xander-Centered
DC Universe > General
anotherlostsoulFR1551240,4331691326687,68914 Nov 0615 Feb 08No

Chapter 40 – In the Mind's Eye II

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, the larger DC comics universe that I am drawing elements from, 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: Okay folks, I’m trying something new in an effort to try and reduce the length of my update cycle, so we’ll see how it works. What have I changed, you ask? Well, namely I’m relying on myself and my spelling and grammar checkers instead of a third party beta-reader. Since I’ve been finding and fixing all (or almost all) of my errors these days anyway, I don’t think you’ll see a noticeable change in the quality and if it works out alright I should be able to update much more frequently.

-== Chapter Forty – In the Mind's Eye II ==-

“So how did I end up here anyway?” Chloe asked with a frown. “And is Willow alright?”

Both Athena and Nike seemed taken aback by the questions. “You don’t know how you came to Olympus?” Athena asked, quickly rising and moving toward the still unconscious form of Willow.

“Not really,” the teen answered with a deepening frown. “This big black bird, I think it was a raven, came out of Willow and wrapped around us…then suddenly I was in your courtyard watching you two make out.”

“Willow brought you here then?” Nike’s voice was edged with sharp concern. “’Thena, is she?” the Goddess of Victory asked, turning anxiously toward Chloe’s sister.

“Damn,” the word, spoken by the Goddess of Wisdom, hung in the air with an ominous finality. “The Titan’s child is only here in body. Her mind, spirit and soul are elsewhere…in one of Trigon’s realms, I think.” She turned back to Chloe and the blonde was surprised by the look of concern on Athena’s face. “Did she say anything, anything at all, before bringing you here?”

“She wished there was a faster way for both of us to learn to master our abilities,” the girl answered quickly. “She was pretty frustrated when she realized that she couldn't read the book Hermes had given her…”

Nike uttered a stream of words that sounded like fairly vile obscenities in a language that Chloe didn’t recognize. “He didn’t bother to translate the damn Codex for her before giving it to her? I’ll kill him myself. He should have known better!” The blonde goddess jumped to her feet and strode out of the room cursing angrily.

“Athena, what’s going on here? What do you mean Willow’s mind isn’t here?” Chloe demanded, standing up and moving toward Willow. “And should someone stop Nike before she murders my father?”

“Nike won’t actually kill Hermes, no matter how much she might want to at the moment,” Athena answered with a sigh. “As to the rest…well, Willow’s powers separated her self, that is to say her spiritual and mental essence, from her body and transported it somewhere else in an effort to grant the wish she made. Her psychic self is another dimension entirely, probably one that Trigon has already conquered…like Azerath.”

“Azerath…that’s where Hermes said the book came from. He said that it was destroyed,” the teen looked at Athena in shock.

“It was, in a manner of speaking,” the goddess confirmed blandly, her hand snaking out and grabbing at something above Willow’s abdomen. An instant later a brilliant silver thread flared into visibility as Athena’s hand wrapped around it. It stretched out from Willow’s body, through the Olympian’s hand and vanished back into invisibility a few inches later. “Thank the Creator! Her cord is still intact at least, so we may be able to get her back.”

“Her cord?” Chloe asked, but Athena didn’t seem to hear her. The goddess’s eyes were mostly closed and fluttering rapidly beneath the lids as if she were in REM sleep.

Abruptly, she jerked her hand back from the thread and swore mightily. “She’s in Azerath alright,” the goddess explained a moment later, “but so is enough of Trigon that I can’t risk going to her.”

“Who or what is Trigon?” the blonde asked sharply. “Please, Athena, tell me what’s going on… If something happens to Willow it will destroy Xander…”

“Trigon is the last of the Titans, Chloe,” Athena began sadly, “and one of the most powerful. He was the only one who managed to escape from Earth’s dimension at the end of the war.”

“What does he have to do with Willow?” the teen questioned with a frown.

“Everything, I’m afraid,” the Olympian said with a sigh. “Sit down and I’ll explain.”

Once Chloe sat down, Athena took a seat across from her and began. “Xander told you about what came before the gods, didn’t he? About the Old Ones and the Titans?” When her sister nodded, the goddess continued, “At the end of the war, two of the Titans were unaccounted for: Trigon and his sister-daughter Tisiphone. It was almost an eon later before we discovered what had happened. Like the Old Ones before them, the Titans were tied to the Earth, inter-dimensional travel was impossible for them. Trigon, however, found a way to break that tie.” She paused and swallowed.

“He sacrificed Tisiphone, scattering her essence across the multiverse and seeding tiny shards of his own power in every dimension,” she explained quickly. “In so doing, he was able to escape to a place where we couldn’t find him. The first rumors of the truth reached us around the time that the first human began gathering in nomadic tribes. Trigon was using the scattered shards of his power to move between dimensions and conquer them.” She watched Chloe carefully as she went on. “Somehow the shards infect pregnant women and alter the offspring, infusing them with a piece of Trigon that he can later use as a portal into that dimension.”

“Willow…” the blonde began, seeing where Athena was going with this.

“…is one of Trigon’s children,” the dark-haired goddess agreed. “If she permits it, he’ll enter Earth’s dimension again, through her, killing everyone in that universe in the process.”

* * * * *

As the Justice League rose slowly through the air above the street where they had beaten their first public foe, Xander couldn’t help but notice the uncertainty on the faces of the police who were present. He knew that, strictly speaking, what they had just done was probably illegal and so did the cops but they made no move to stop or arrest the trio. It seemed they were either being let go out of gratitude for stopping an otherwise unstoppable bad guy or because the officers were afraid of them because they had been able to stop the bad guy in question. Either way, the teens weren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, instead opting to get out of there while the getting was good. The Aesir did notice a number of helicopters belonging to the news media and the LAPD that seemed inclined to follow them, however, which made heading directly back to the campus a bad idea. Still, he was also fairly certain that the craft in question weren’t nearly fast enough to keep up with them.

Grinning tightly, the Thunder God turned toward the north as he cleared the roof-tops and called out to the others, “Seems like they want to follow us guys, let’s show them how fast we can go.” He frowned for a second as a thought struck him. “Let’s keep it under the speed of sound though…at least until we clear the city or gain some serious altitude.”

The three teens accelerated away in a blur of motion that left the surprised pilots of the helicopters straining to try and catch up. Within moments the trio was angling upward and a few short seconds later they had far exceeded the operational ceiling of any helicopter on earth. They didn’t stop there, however, on the off chance that there were other aircraft, such as military fighter jets, being dispatched to intercept them. A stuttering triple crack at 30,000 feet marked the moment when the threesome surpassed the speed of sound and continued accelerating.

After a few minutes and several hundred miles, Xander shifted his track and went into a steep climb. So steep, in fact, that it doubled back on their original course, creating an immense loop. As they neared the top of the massive arc, Xander and the others slowed to a stop, floating at the very edge of outer space. Below them, the west coast of the North American continent stretched out, bounded on one side by the vast and seemingly infinite sapphire blue of the Pacific Ocean and on the other by the equally expansive curve of the rest of the continental landmass. At this distance, the world seemed a serene and tranquil place.

They hung motionless for what seemed like forever, marveling at the beauty and majesty of the blue-green world they called home. It was not the first time that Xander or Midori had seen the planet like this, but it was the first time they had stopped and really looked at it. Noticing the black clouds that clung to one section of the California coast, the Thunder God spared a thought to disperse the storm that he’d gathered over the distant speck that was Los Angeles.

Xander turned toward Clark to ask if he was doing okay with his fear of heights when the Aesir suddenly realized that there was no air up here to breathe, let alone to talk in. Fear shot through him in response. Midori could protect herself and others from the rigors of space, but if she hadn’t thought of it sooner than he had…Clark would be dead or dying at this altitude!

Luckily, he needn’t have worried. Clark appeared utterly unfazed by the complete lack of breathable air and near vacuum pressures. In fact, the last son of Krypton had turned his back toward the Earth and was staring through the blackness of space at the distant orb of blazing yellow fire called Sol. The younger Kent had his arms spread out to his sides and his head tilted back slightly as though he were savoring the warmth of the sunlight on an otherwise dreary day. Watching him for a moment, the Aesir abruptly became aware of a flowing, focused current of energy suffusing the area around his brother. He quickly recognized that he was perceiving the way that Clark’s body absorbed the potent solar energy that the yellow star was veritably bombarding them with.

Smiling with relief, Xander floated over to Clark and laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder, getting his attention. When his brother turned back toward him, the deity realized that he could almost see the power in Clark’s eyes, which seemed to almost glow with their own, internal light. He pointed back toward the Earth beneath them and watched as Clark nodded a trifle reluctantly. A quick glance at Midori was also met with a brief nod before all three of the youths dove back toward the distant City of Angels.

They streaked down through the atmosphere like a trio of falling meteors as they headed back toward the college campus where Chloe and Willow were waiting for them. They slowed themselves quickly in the rapidly thickening atmosphere, trying hard to attract the least possible attention with their approach. Within moments, the threesome touched down gently on the utterly empty roof of the student center. A split-second later their superhero uniforms had been replaced by normal clothing.

“Where are Chloe and Willow?” Clark asked quickly, voicing the concerned question that both of his companions were already asking themselves.

Xander bit back the urge to unleash a sarcastic response to the question and instead focused on trying to understand what he was seeing. The book that Hermes had given Willow was laying on one of the picnic tables and Chloe’s bag appeared to have been dropped carelessly near the low wall that surrounded the edge of the roof. The details screamed out to Xander that something was wrong, but he had no idea exactly what.

“I’ll go check the ladies room,” Midori said after a moment, “maybe they just…” She trailed off and froze in place as she noticed the bag that Chloe had been carrying.

Wordlessly, Clark pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and pressed a button. Within moments the shrill sounds of a phone ringing could be heard from the bag. “Chloe left her cell phone,” the worry in the Kryptonian’s voice was crystal clear, “that’s not like her.”

A cold barb of fear lodged itself in Xander’s gut, leaving him feeling that something truly terrible had happened while they were gone. He’d been so certain that he would just know if anything bad happened to them, that he was completely unprepared to be blindsided like this. Internally, he berated himself for coming to rely so much on his divine intuition because it clearly had limits that he hadn’t known about. Unfortunately, mental recrimination was getting him nowhere fast, so he shoved it aside and focused on the now.

As some semblance of clarity returned to his mind, he recognized that Willow’s book had been moved slightly from where it was when they left. “Midi,” he started as he walked to the table where the book rested, “can your ring’s sensors pick up anything unusual on the roof?” He flipped open the book and stared at the first page, waiting for several long seconds for the strange glyphs to become comprehensible.

“Uh, some residual energies that are pretty odd,” the Green Lantern said a minute later. “Four individual points, one of which is way stronger than the others. It’ll take the ring a few minutes to do a more detailed analysis…”

The Aesir frowned and began reading through the Metrion Codex at super-speed, still hoping that it might hold the key to what happened. When he finished he swore loudly and promised himself that he would beat the Messenger God to a bloody pulp the next time he saw him. Thinking about Hermes caused something to click in his mind, “Four points? Would they happen to coincide with the place where Hermes appeared, where Odin appeared and then disappeared, and then where Hermes vanished?” He pointed out the locations in question as he named them off.

“That’s three of the points, yes,” Midori agreed, making the connection that Xander seemed to have found intuitively. She pointed out the final and strongest point, “Odin’s entry and exit must overlap exactly, because the fourth point is right there.” Right there just happened to be halfway between where Chloe’s bag had fallen and the table where the Codex sat. “And the ring confirms that the signatures are remnants of inter-dimensional portals…”

“So Chloe and Willow are in another dimension?” Clark asked abruptly. “How do we get them back then?”

“We don’t. I do,” the Thunder God answered solemnly. “Can the ring give me any idea where they might have gone?”

“No,” the Green Lantern said with a frown. “The energy signatures from Odin and Hermes are too degraded to make a decent comparison and even if it wasn’t that would only be helpful if they went wherever one or the other of the two gods went.”

“You guys take the book and Chloe’s bag and go back to the farm,” the teenaged deity said flatly as Mjolnir appeared in his hand.

“No, Xander,” his brother interrupted, stepping forward and grabbing Xander’s arm. “You can’t do this. You’ve got no way of knowing where they are…what makes you so sure you can find them?”

“Because I have to Clark,” he answered in a hard voice, “because no one else can.”

“Take us with you,” Midori said quickly. “They’re our friends too.”

“I can’t,” the Aesir replied. “I’m not even sure I know enough about what I’m about to do to safely transport myself across the dimensional barriers. I can’t risk your lives too.” He swallowed hard, unsettled by having to admit his doubts aloud. “If I screw up and wind up dead or trapped in another dimension, the world’s still going to need heroes… it’s still going to need both of you.”

The phrase filled the air with a dread-filled tension, an open acknowledgment of just how grave the risks might be. Clark gave a strained nod and let go of his brother’s arm, backing away reluctantly. Midori, however, moved closer and Xander met her eyes.

“You come back safely, Xander,” she ordered quietly, “and you bring Chloe and Willow back with you. The world needs us all.” Before the god could reply, Midori went up on her toes and kissed him soundly, sending his eyes wide in surprise. The unexpected kiss broke off as quickly as it had begun and the Japanese girl pulled away from him, rejoining a shocked looking Clark.

Xander shoved aside the distractions that had been created, intentionally or not, by Midori’s kiss and focused on the task at hand, closing his eyes in the process. The teen had realized what he needed to do to teleport in the wake of learning to fly, but had not yet had sufficient reason to attempt it. He could only hope that traveling between dimensions worked the same way. Just like flying, it should simply be a matter of will.

Concentrating, he focused on Chloe and Willow and then willed himself to be wherever they were. He spared no thought for how he would get there or what such a journey might entail. He allowed no trace of doubt or disbelief to crowd its way into his mind. He simply forced reality to bend to his desires and take him to where they were through the sheer force of his divine will.

Clark and Midori watched in anxious anticipation as Xander raised the Hammer of Thor above his head. A bolt of lightning came down on it instantly from the clear, crystal blue sky. The flash of brilliant blue-white forced them both to look away and the resulting thunderclap seemed to shake the very roof beneath their feet. When they turned back, the Thunder God was gone.

“Did he?” the Kryptonian asked quickly.

“He shifted between dimensions, but it’ll take the ring a little while to analyze the data and see if it can determine if he went to the same place as Willow and Chloe,” Midori said with a nod as she reactivated her uniform. “His exit is going to attract attention, we should go.”

Clark answered with a nod of his own and reactivated his own uniform just as the door to the roof area abruptly opened. His mask materialized in the longest split-second of the teen’s life, hiding his identity from the newcomer only through the sheerest luck. The Kryptonian moved in a blur of super-speed, scooping up Chloe’s bag and Willow’s book before stopping next to Midori. “You’re right, it’s time to go,” he acknowledged before blurring into the sky.

Midori rolled her eyes at the farm-boy’s actions before looking back at their unexpected company. Smiling gently, she waved at the young man before soaring off after Clark.

The teenaged boy stared after the pair of real-life superheroes in dumbfounded shock. He was, in fact, a high school freshman by the name of James Olson who had been on campus that day for a photo-journalism workshop. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t actually think to try and take a picture until the two were well out of sight.

* * * * *

Willow sat atop the highest point within the ruined city of Metrion, the crumbling upper edge of a wall some fifty feet above the ground, and stared out at the sun setting slowly in the distance. It was her fifty-eighth sunset since arriving in Azerath and, as she often did in the evenings after completing the day’s training, she wondered about her friends and family. She wondered if Xander and the others were still searching for her after all this time. She wondered if her parents had even noticed she was missing, or if they’d had her declared dead given Sunnydale’s unnaturally high mortality rate. She wondered if Chloe had finally made the first move and if she and Xander were making with the smoochies… and she wondered why that thought still bothered her, despite having given up on Xander months ago.

It was a testament to the emotional discipline that Raven had been teaching her that she had been able to come to terms with so much of what had happened. The key, she had learned, wasn’t to try and feel nothing, because as the child of a pair of psychologists she knew that solution held its own risks but rather, to not let the emotions control her. In reaching that point, the point where she could focus and control her emotions, she had found a strange sort of peace with herself. She could miss her friends and family, her entire world, without being crippled by it. She could be afraid without being paralyzed by fear. She could be happy, or angry, or sad…or any other emotion, without completely losing herself in it. It was a truly liberating experience.

The instant that the sun touched the distant horizon, Willow became aware that something was changing around her. For a few, incredibly brief moments she felt a strange presence that seemed vaguely familiar to her. It seemed in that instant as though someone, someone who reminded her strongly of Chloe but was not actually Chloe, was searching for her and, more importantly, had found her. As quickly as the sensation came, it seemed to recede, retreating from something that swelled to take its place, something dangerous and malevolent. The redhead automatically stilled her mind and body in response to the second presence, drawing her senses inside herself and trying to make herself as un-noteworthy as possible.

Drawing the attention of that second presence would be catastrophically bad. It was crucial that she remain beneath Trigon’s notice for as long as possible to give her the time she needed to grow strong enough to challenge him. For a long and terribly tense moment, she felt her father’s attention drifting lazily over the realm of Azerath. He was searching for any sign that someone had managed to reach this place, after all intruders, particularly those who served other deities, could not be countenanced.

Willow remained focused on minimizing her presence as much as possible for what seemed like hours. She even managed to keep from flinching when his attention passed over her not once, but twice. It was only as she felt her father’s distinct presence begin to pull away from Azerath that she permitted herself to finally relax. According to Raven, Trigon jealously guarded every realm that he conquered, even though they were all dead, empty wastelands like this one. It made no sense to Willow, but she was hardly in a hurry to discuss with Trigon why he did what he did.

As soon as she was certain that Trigon’s attention was truly elsewhere once again, Willow used her power to teleport herself back to Raven’s side. It wasn’t quite instantaneous when she teleported like this, but it was certainly a near enough thing, especially since she couldn’t fly nearly as fast as she had seen Xander and Midori fly. She smiled tightly as her power enveloped her and pulled her a short distance through the complete and utter blackness of the space between places. A single deep breath later, she emerged back into the world a few feet from her mentor.

“Your friends managed to stir Trigon’s attention, Willow,” Raven accused coolly, “if they manage to rouse his curiosity then every thing we’ve worked toward is lost…”

A vague disquiet ran through the redhead at Raven’s tone. She trusted Raven, perhaps even a bit more than she should, but the way the other woman reacted whenever Willow brought up leaving Azerath was beginning to make her a little uneasy. “I’m sorry, Raven,” she offered quickly, hoping to avoid another argument, “but I cannot exactly influence their actions from here.” She prudently left out the fact that if she could, she’d encourage them to keep looking rather than to stop.

“You know they can’t reach you here,” the black-haired woman said, as she had several times before. “Trigon’s power keeps out both the gods and mere mortals who seek entrance. You are the only person to reach Azerath in decades.”

Willow said nothing in response. In the past few days, perhaps even in the last few weeks, she’d begun to notice that Raven’s emotional control seemed to be weakening even as her own control improved and it troubled her greatly. Her intuition screamed at her that Raven was becoming dangerous and that if she was going to escape Azerath, she would have to do it sooner rather than later. The only problem was that she had no idea how…

* * * * *

Athena’s dire proclamation about Willow was like a slap in Chloe’s face, leaving the blonde staring at her sister in unabashed shock. She didn’t know Willow that well, certainly not as well as Xander knew her, but she knew enough to be absolutely sure of one thing at least. “Willow would never let that happen,” she protested sharply. “She’d die before she’d willingly allow Trigon to destroy our dimension!”

“And that is precisely why she still lives,” the Olympian agreed with a nod. “You must understand, Chloe, that with every dimension that he conquers, Trigon becomes more powerful. A war against him would be catastrophic. He cannot be permitted into Earth’s dimension, no matter the cost.” She paused to let her words sink in. “Unfortunately, the situation has become even less straight forward now. While Willow has the strength of will to resist Trigon and the intelligence to see through many of his manipulations, the Titan will not be so easily denied. She has already fallen into one of his more cunning traps. If she does not escape Azerath in the next hour, the tie between her body and her spirit will be severed and Trigon will be free to use her as his portal into this world.” Her face turned grim, “If that happens, her body will have to be destroyed to stop him.”

Chloe couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Surely the goddess wasn’t serious about this… they couldn’t just kill Willow. “There has to be some way to save her,” she said adamantly. “There has to be something that we can do!”

“There is nothing that I can do,” the goddess said bluntly. “No god or goddess may enter one of Trigon’s realms without his consent and no one short of a god or goddess would have the power to challenge his avatar and free Willow.” Her grim expression softened slightly, “There is, however, one person who could save her… Tell me, sister, would you risk your own life to save the Titan’s child?” She quickly raised her hand to forestall Chloe’s protests. “What I am proposing is exceedingly dangerous and will require you to pay a price that you may be unwilling to pay. Do not agree until you are sure of what you are agreeing to, because some things cannot be undone and some choices cannot be unmade.”

“How can I help her? I barely have any control over my abilities,” the blonde asked, her face carefully neutral as she considered Athena’s cautions.

“There is a gift that I alone can give you,” her sister replied immediately. “It will awaken the Olympian fires that flicker but weakly in your spirit. This gift carries a price, however, for once awakened the fires cannot be extinguished save by death. If you do this, you will no longer be Chloe Sullivan, the mortal child of two Olympians; you would become Chloe of Olympus, and that is no small change.”

“But you said that no gods could enter Azerath without Trigon’s permission!” the teen protested quickly. “And I still don’t understand how that would help with my abilities…”

“I cannot make you a goddess, Chloe, only the Dodekatheon, the twelve chief deities of the pantheon, can do that and it would defeat the very purpose of my gift in this case. Becoming an Olympian doesn’t automatically make you a goddess,” Athena explained, “but it would give you access to your full, unfettered powers and give you an intimate understanding of how to use them.”

Chloe snorted at the irony of it. Athena would have to grant part of Willow’s wish in order to save Willow from said wish. “What do we do?”

“You’ve made your choice then?” Athena countered, rising to her feet with a languid grace and offering her hand to help Chloe stand as well.

“Yes,” she answered without hesitation, taking her sister’s hand and allowing herself to be helped up. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help her.”

There was a definite gleam of pride in the goddess’s eyes as she paused and looked Chloe in the eye. “You are a brave and loyal friend, little sister,” she said with a soft smile, releasing the teen’s hand and cupping Chloe’s cheek as she stepped closer to the blonde.

Chloe was abruptly aware of the almost intimate closeness of the goddess’s body. She could actually feel the heat radiating from the woman, and it sent a shiver through her. Her mind ground to a shrieking halt as she felt Athena’s other hand on her hip and realized that the Olympian was about to kiss her. She wanted to pull away, to freak out because her sister was about to kiss her, but her body seemed unwilling to respond beyond tensing up tightly. She swallowed hard, feeling the soft curviness of Athena’s body slowly press against her in the moment before their lips touched.

In that strangely eternal instant before the kiss, Chloe’s mind experienced a bizarre fission. Even as one part of her awareness protested the wrongness of what was about to happen, screaming that sisters, even half-sisters, just did not kiss each other like this, another part analyzed those arguments with a cold rationality. What she discovered there came as no small surprise to her. The only part of this situation that was freaking her out was the fact that Athena was her sister… not the part where it was a woman who was about to kiss her or the part where said woman was a brunette version of her with a much nicer body.

Why weren’t those things freaking her out too?

And then Athena was kissing her and her conscious mind could be aware of nothing else. It was not the first time that Chloe had ever been kissed, but it might as well have been. Compared to this, those other experiences barely deserved to be called kisses. Where they had been clumsy, fumbling moments with boys who were as inexperienced as she was, this kiss was soft, gentle and supremely confident. This was the kiss of someone who knew exactly what she was doing and precisely how to do it. Almost instantly, a strange warmth began to build in the very core of Chloe’s being, starting slowly but rapidly increasing in strength.

Before the blonde even realized what she was doing, she had her arms wrapped around Athena and was pulling their bodies together tightly. There was no conscious thought here, no concern for right or wrong, the kiss mere was and in simply existing it overwhelmed all other considerations. Even time no longer made sense to Chloe. It could have been a mere second later or an entire century might have passed when she felt the soft brush of the goddess’s tongue against her lips, but she opened her mouth to it without hesitation, and it was in that moment that everything changed.

The intimacy of the moment caused the warmth inside of Chloe to explode out through her entire body, filling every particle of her being with a vital fire that she had never experienced before. The longer the kiss lingered, the more intense the fire became until it finally overwhelmed her mind and everything seemed to vanish in white-hot brilliance.

When her vision cleared, it was as if she were seeing for the first time. There was a sharp clarity to everything around her that she had never been aware of before. Blinking, she realized that she was sitting back on the couch again and staring up into her sister’s face. The same sister that had just kissed her into near unconsciousness. She shivered violently and brought her fingers up to her lips for a long moment before speaking. “Please tell me that I just imagined that?” she said softly.

“I am sorry, Chloe, but there was no easier way to do it or any way that would have offended your mortal taboos less,” the goddess apologized. “Only an act of intimacy between us could accomplish what had to be done, be thankful that a kiss was sufficient…”

The implications of the goddess’s words sent a full-blown shudder down Chloe’s spine. Kissing her sister was bad enough, if excusable under the circumstances, but the thought of losing her virginity to her was infinitely worse. “Okay, yeah, you definitely make a good point there,” she replied with an awkward smile.

Athena frowned slightly, wondering if perhaps Aphrodite had misread her little sister. “Was it really so terrible to kiss me?” she asked with just the right amount of hurt in her voice. She disliked the idea of manipulating Chloe, but if Aphrodite had been wrong… well, it would complicate things for everyone involved, so she needed to be sure.

“No!” the blonde responded instantly. “The kiss was…wow…it’s just that, sisters don’t kiss each other, or at least not like that…”

Inwardly, Athena sighed softly. She’d known that this aspect of the situation would make things awkward and difficult but this, at least, she had expected. She smiled gently at her sister and casually moved away from her before nodding. “Do you know now what you must do to help Willow, or should I explain?”

The teen frowned at the sudden change of topic and seemed confused for a long moment as her brain suddenly assimilated the knowledge she had been given about her abilities. “I…I know how to project myself into Azerath and find Willow…and I know how to use my abilities, but I don’t know how to free us from Trigon’s realm once I get there,” she answered after a few seconds.

The Goddess of Wisdom frowned slightly, afraid of how Chloe might respond to the answer if she simply came out and told her. Unfortunately time was far too short and the task far too critical for being cryptic or beating around the bush. “You can’t free the two of you, Willow has to do it but her power alone will not be enough. You’ll have to lend her a measure of your's to accomplish it.”

“How do I do that?” Chloe was surprised by the fact that she had no idea how to do such a thing in light of the things she did know about her abilities now.

“The same way that I lent you a measure of my own power to awaken your Olympian spirit,” the dark-haired Olympian replied. “You’ll have to push your power into her through a kiss... or other intimate contact if you prefer.”

“A kiss…” the blonde repeated, taken aback by the words.

Athena sighed audibly in exasperation. “This sort of thing was so much easier in the old days, before humanity demonized anything even remotely related to sex,” she complained in a huff. “Only humanity could be so perverse as to turn one of life’s few true pleasures into something distasteful.”

The vehemence of her sister’s rant brought a wry grin to Chloe’s face. “It must be nice to live in a less inhibited society,” she ventured sympathetically.

The goddess gave the girl a knowing look. “You’ll have to decide that for yourself, little sister. You’re part of that society now, all you have to do is set aside your own, all too human inhibitions,” Athena’s smile was quite genuine as she planted that tiny seed in the teen’s mind. Now she could only hope that it took root. “At any rate, you must make a choice. This is the only way to save Willow. Is her life worth less than the price of kissing her?” She raised a questioning eyebrow at Chloe.

“No,” the blonde replied immediately, “I meant what I said when I said I’d do whatever it took to save her…”

“Then you should hurry,” Athena countered. “Time grows short and if you are trapped in Azerath when the hour expires, both of you will die.”
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