Chapter 41 – In the Mind's Eye III
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: This took me a bit longer to get ready than I expected, but here it is, for everyone to enjoy. I will warn everyone that the odds are that I probably won’t be posting any updates for at least the next ten days or so, as I’m taking next week off completely to go visit family for Thanksgiving. There’s a slim possibility (and I’m talking practically anorexic) that I might post a chapter of a side-story sometime next week, but certainly nothing on this one. On the upside, this is probably one of the longest chapters I’ve posted in a while…
-== Chapter Forty-One – In the Mind's Eye III ==-
Xander opened his eyes to find himself standing on a broad road of granite paving stones, just inside a massive, golden gateway. To his left and right stood great marble statues of Greek gods lining the half mile span of roadway between the ornate golden gate and a second, more defensible gateway that lay ahead of him. Beyond that stood what he could only describe as a city of white marble buildings built in ancient Greek styles that sprawled around the expanse of a large hillock. Atop that central rise stood a building that reminded him of an equally ancient Greek forum. The streets bustled with activity as the citizens of the settlement went about their daily lives. Some of the men and women were dressed in a range of clothing styles that spanned from the classical period to modern fashion, creating a strange mixture wherein no choice of attire would particularly stand out. To say that it was not what he expected to find would have been the very height of understatement.
He spent several moments gaping in unabashed awe at the general bizarreness of the entire vista before finally shaking it off. He could only have come here because Chloe and Willow were here, which begged the questions of where the hell was he and why hadn't he teleported directly to them as he had expected? He glanced down momentarily at Mjolnir, which remained clutched in his hand, before willing it back into its necklace form and dropping it around his neck. It wouldn't exactly do to frighten the locals unnecessarily, so an unimposing approach was probably for the best.
Putting on what he hoped was a casual smile, he began to stroll up the road toward the city proper.
The city itself was almost exactly what he might have expected to find in an extremely wealthy city-state of ancient Greece. There were a few massive buildings, temples and palaces most likely, intermixed among the far more common, and far more modest, masses of smaller buildings. The only thing that struck him as odd, aside from the weird trend in native fashion, was the pristine cleanliness of the place. There wasn't a single trace of refuse, not a single sign of the general filth associated with even the most modern of cities.
If not for the size of the population, the Thunder God might have mistaken this city for Olympus itself, but there were tens of thousands of people living here. There simply weren't that many Greek gods; therefore it couldn't possibly be the city of Olympus... unless he was terribly mistaken. His certainty in that conclusion was further supported by the appearance of people of all ages. After all the Gods of Olympus were as immortal as the Aesir, which would make the appearance of the elderly among its population virtually impossible.
As he neared the inner gate, Xander noticed a pair of soldiers clad in the armor of Greek Hoplites and armed with shields and spears. They watched his approach with a great deal of interest and as he reached their post, the warriors snapped to a rigid, military attention. Instantly, one of the men, the more senior of the two, addressed the Aesir in the same dialect of ancient Greek that Aphrodite had used.
* Greetings, Lord Xander,* the man's voice and mode of address were extremely formal. *You honor the city with your presence so soon after your victory in the City of Angels. Our King has declared a feast in your honor.*
The teenaged deity was taken aback by the fact that the man both knew precisely who he was and knew about the battle in Los Angeles. On top of that, the idea of an entire city holding a feast in his honor completely boggled his mind. *You know who I am?* he asked, despite the ridiculousness of the question.
*Of course. You are Lord Xander Thorson, Prince of Asgard and God of Thunder,* the guard replied with a puzzled expression. *Is everything alright my Lord?*
*Uh... no, not really,* the Aesir admitted with a frown. *I came in search of two of my friends and I'm not even entirely sure where I am or where I'm going.*
*Ah,* the soldier's confusion vanished, or at least appeared to. *This is your first time in our fair city, I had not realized. Permit me, then, to be the first to welcome you to the grandeur that is fair Olympus.*
*This is Olympus?* he asked, utterly shocked. *I didn't realize there were so many Olympian gods...*
Understanding dawned in the man's eyes, *There aren't, my Lord. Like the Aesir and Vanir, most Olympians are not gods. We are mortals, but not human. Our lives may span several thousand years, but we do eventually grow old and pass into Tartarus.* He smiled as Xander's confusion faded. *Even among our people, only the gods themselves are truly immortal.*
The revelation seemed to run counter to everything that Xander thought he knew about the gods of Olympus and Asgard, but at the same time it made a strange kind of sense. Shrugging off his thoughts about such things, the Thunderer focused on more important matters, *Two of my friends, a pair of young ladies, came here before me, do you know where I can find them?*
The man's smile seemed suddenly brittle, *No other visitors have passed this gate, my Lord, and only the gods themselves could allow one to enter or leave the city without passing here.*
Xander frowned. If that was truly the case, then Chloe and Willow couldn't be here... unless either the man was mistaken or one of his Olympian cousins was somehow involved. What he really needed, therefore, was some way to know if they were here and then find them, whether they were here or elsewhere. As he contemplated the problem, he abruptly recalled Hermes' advice that he should look up the Lady Athena when he came to Olympus. Despite his simmering anger at the Messenger God, it seemed as good a starting point as any he could conceive of...
*Where can I find the Lady Athena?* he asked with a broad smile.
* * * * *
Chloe's psychic self raced along the silvery cord that connected Willow's physical body to her psychic essence. It was an odd sensation and a decidedly strange experience, the process of stepping out of the physical world and leaving her body behind, but it was a quite useful ability. Unfortunately, she was all too familiar with its limits, thanks in no small part to the knowledge Athena's kiss had imparted to her. The biggest drawback was that if the mind was separated from the body for more than two hours, the body would die.
Suddenly, Chloe felt the entire world lurch around her as her immaterial form abruptly became corporeal and began to plummet toward the ground beneath her. She had entered Azerath, and while she had known that something like this might happen, because in this place Trigon's rules held sway, she was not entirely prepared for it. As she plunged toward the ground, a brilliant white light enveloped her, making her suddenly seem like a falling star. The light was a physical manifestation of her Olympian spirit and the divine gifts of her heritage as they exerted themselves against the Titan's influence. Gradually, her descent slowed and she shifted her position so that her feet pointed toward the ground.
Athena had been right it seemed. Trigon's will was strong and it would have been capable of barring an actual god from entering the realm. Once inside Azerath, however, his will was diffuse and unfocused and could be overcome by a mortal, if they had sufficient power. Since Chloe was a mortal Olympian with the powers of a Goddess of Thought, she alone could challenge Trigon and rescue Willow.
The blonde slowed to a stop, floating a few feet above the tainted soil of the blasted landscape. Touching the ground would be like poking a sleeping lion with a sharp stick, it would attract Trigon's full attention and a direct confrontation against the totality of his power would be suicidal. Thankfully, while she may not have inherited her father's fleetness of foot, she did have his power of flight.
Bleak twilight crawled over the desolate landscape around her causing the light radiating from her to stand out like a signal beacon for miles in any direction. That realization brought a dark frown to the Olympian's face. As desperate as she was to find Willow and leave post-haste, her visual presence would attract the attention of every living thing, predatory or otherwise, that could see the light. It couldn't be helped though, which made it all the more critical that she hurry.
Opening her mind, the girl stretched out with her senses, searching for any hint of Willow's presence. Within moments, she felt her awareness brush over... something. It was a definite presence, albeit one that was trying desperately to go unnoticed. Whatever it was, it was doing a fine job of hiding, remaining fuzzy and indistinct even as she tried to focus on it. "Willow?" she whispered aloud, sending the questioning word along a probing tendril of thought so that whoever was hiding from her would hear it. It was risky since she couldn't be sure if the creature that was trying so hard to be invisible was actually Willow, but time was far too short to play it safe.
"You should not have come here, outlander," a sharp, voice announced behind her, causing Chloe to spin toward the voice.
A black-clad woman in a cloak and hood floated where nothing had been mere moments before. A sudden ripple of power flowed from the strange woman and Chloe saw a wave of shadow-black energy whip toward her. The Olympian threw up her hand and smiled grimly as the she felt the attack break against the shield she created. The foul psychic taint of Trigon hung heavily on the woman, leading Chloe to a single conclusion. "So you're her," she said casually, hoping to distract her foe. "The daughter of Trigon that destroyed Azerath. How does it feel to be forced to be his puppet after everything that he did?"
Trigon's avatar lashed out, using her powers to hurl a series of heavy boulders at Chloe, who reinforced her shield as it absorbed the impacts. The blonde used the time to evaluate her opponent. As far as Chloe's psychic senses were concerned, the woman didn't even exist, she was merely an extension of Trigon's presence in Azerath. Fortunately, it seemed that this particular aspect of Trigon still retained a great deal of the personality of the being on whom it was modeled. It appeared to react like an emotionally unstable young woman rather than a nearly omnipotent Titan.
"Who are you?" the creature asked angrily as Chloe seemed unmoved and unconcerned by the attacks. "You're no child of Trigon's, that much is certain, but no other with such powers has ever entered Azerath."
"I am Chloe of Olympus, daughter of the Goddess Metis and the God Hermes," she answered with cold calculation, hoping to intimidate her opponent. "I have come to take Willow home where she belongs."
"No! She's mine and you can't have her!" the woman screamed angrily. "I won't be left alone again!"
Chloe cursed loudly and swept into motion as the avatar drew on even more of Trigon's power and used the ground beneath her as a weapon, reaching up with a great stone hand in an effort to grab her. Clearly, intimidation had been a bad call, she decided as she narrowly avoided the attack. The avatar pressed the attack viciously and effectively forcing Chloe to remain on the defensive and keep in constant motion. Luckily, the blonde quickly saw the pattern in the attacks and when the time came, she was ready to launch a counterattack.
However, the moment of hesitation her attack required left her open and vulnerable, allowing her foe to spring the lethal trap that Chloe had overlooked. The entire assault had been a careful ploy meant to lure Chloe to a specific place. When the Olympian paused to launch a telekinetic attack of her own, the two giant stone pillar's she hovered between suddenly slammed together, despite the seeming impossibility of the movement. Caught by surprise, Chloe had no time at all to react before everything went utterly black and silent.
* * * * *
Xander was distinctly uncomfortable as he followed the guardsman through the crowded streets of Olympus. The man, Captain Leonidas by name, had insisted that it would be his honor to escort Xander to Athena's palace. That fact was awkward enough, but the way that the crowds parted and a hushed silence fell around them as they walked made things even worse. It reminded him of the way that visiting royalty always seemed to get treated, which promptly caused him to realize that he essentially was visiting royal in this case, a fact that only increased his discomfort.
Leonidas eventually led him to the foot of a broad stair that led up to one of the largest buildings that Xander had thought were temples. *Lady Athena awaits you inside, my Lord,* the guard captain announced formally.
*How did she know I was coming?* the teen asked, surprised.
*I sent word ahead, my Lord,* he replied with a frown. *It would not do for the Lady to be surprised on such an auspicious day.*
The Thunder God nodded dumbly at the man, confused by his words but deciding that he really didn't want to know. This entire situation was turning out to be more complicated than he had even remotely expected. At this point all he really cared about was finding Willow and Chloe and getting back to the farm before Mt. Jonathan could erupt at Clark over the mess in Los Angeles, and with luck Athena could help him with those goals. Before the Aesir could make a reply, the man gave him a broad smile, clapped his right fist against his breastplate in salute, and walked away.
Xander shook his head before turning and climbing the half-dozen steps up to the door. The moment he mounted the top stair, the heavy wooden doors swung inward of their own accord to reveal a great hall. The Aesir's eyes, however, went immediately to the figure standing at the far end of the hall and saw almost nothing else. The woman he saw there was the very epitome of regal grace and beauty. She was tall, only a couple of inches shorter than he was, with shoulder length hair that was a rich brown color. She wore a simple, yet elegant gown of ancient Greek design that was made of a shimmering white fabric, silk, perhaps, or something like it. The dress was clasped at the left shoulder, but otherwise seamless, and cut in a graceful scoop that left her right shoulder bare and revealed the barest hints of cleavage. The fabric fell and clung in such a way as to accentuate the very feminine curves of her breasts and hips without being blatantly revealing. It was her face, however, that ultimately held the Thunder God's attention. If not for the differences in height, figure and hair color, he would have sworn to Odin himself that this was Chloe.
He walked forward slowly, abruptly aware of a strange, nervous tension that seemed to emanate from the woman. A part of him wanted to speak to the woman, to hear a voice break the strained silence and sweep away the tension in the air, but something subtle in her poise and expression, something almost intangible, told him that would be a mistake. Even he could recognize a sense of formality in the moment, even if he didn't understand exactly what was going on. He stopped a short distance away from her, drawing a pleased smile in response that made his heart want to melt.
"Have you come to claim what's yours, my Lord?" The question was simultaneously very formal and yet strangely hopeful. The woman's voice was strong and confidant, the voice of someone born to leadership... the voice of a Queen or a Goddess. Instantly, he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was Athena.
Xander paused for a moment and considered the question. The formality of it struck him as odd compared to his other dealings with his Olympian cousins. Still, he could only assume that she was referring to his friends, since he couldn't conceive of anything else of his that she might be referring to. Even so, a tiny voice in the back of his mind warned him to tread carefully... just in case he was wrong. A few seconds of further thought allowed him to formulate a suitably formal-sounding and cautious answer.
"I have, if it pleases you, Lady Athena," he answered with a soft smile, knowing that whether it was the right answer to the question or not, this answer was very unlikely to offend the beautiful War Goddess.
A broad smile of absolute delight spread across the Olympian's face and she stepped close to Xander, placing both of her hands on his chest. The soft touch sent a thrill of warmth and excitement through the Thunder God, causing his breath to catch in his chest as his eyes met hers. Their bodies weren't quite touching, but they were close enough that he could feel the heat that seemed to radiate from Athena.
"It does please me, my Lord," she whispered softly. "It pleases me very much."
The warning bells went off in Xander's mind the moment those words left her mouth, which, incidentally, was the moment before Athena kissed him. For a split-second, Xander stiffened, realizing that there was clearly something going on here that he hadn't known about. In his surprise at this strange turn of events, he opened his mouth slightly, which Athena took as invitation to deepen the kiss. As the goddess's tongue slipped into his mouth, the Aesir's eyes closed and his body relaxed into the kiss. He felt one of Athena's hands leave his chest and heard an odd, almost slithering sound before the hand found its way to his hip and pulled their bodies together tightly.
The heat of her body against his excited Xander, as did the feel of her hand sliding over his hip to grab his ass firmly. As his body reacted in typical male fashion to the increasingly sexual nature of the kiss, her other hand slid up to tangle in his hair. The building sensations of the experience finally overwhelmed his surprised reluctance and the Thunder God's hands moved to Athena's hips, where they met with smooth, bare flesh.
For the briefest of moments, the entire world seemed to freeze as the teen's brain processed this new development and made certain connections. When Athena had moved her hand, she'd unfastened her gown and allowed it to fall away, which had produced the silken slither of sound he'd heard. It also seemed, if the soft expanse of skin his hand seemed to be sliding up of its own volition were any indication, that Athena hadn't been wearing anything at all under her gown.
It was only a second later, as his errant hand cupped the goddess's firm, round breast and caused her to moan softly into his mouth, that reality struck Xander like one of Zeus' thunderbolts. He was kissing and groping the Goddess of War and Wisdom. The very much naked Goddess of War and Wisdom, who looked remarkably like one of his best friends on whom he had a serious crush. He was dead. In fact, he was so dead that they'd have to bury him two... maybe even three times... if they even found all the pieces.
His eyes snapped open as the panicked rush of fearful realization completely destroyed the moment. He immediately broke off the kiss and jerked back, nearly stumbling in his haste. It was at that moment that he realized he could now actually see the goddess's nude form and it was every bit as gorgeous as he had imagined it would be. Then it dawned on him that he was staring at the woman, who was eying him with an almost wickedly seductive half-grin. His cheeks flushed with the heat of his embarrassment and he forced his reluctant eyes to close.
Almost instantly Athena spoke and Xander could hear the confused hurt in her voice, "Is something wrong, husband? Do you not find me pleasing to look at?"
Xander's mind registered only a single word: husband.
What the fuck?
* * * * *
* Moments ago *
Willow turned quickly, her eyes moving with unerring accuracy toward a distant speck in the remote twilight. Something had entered Azerath, and like Raven, she felt the arrival as unmistakably as if someone had hit her. At this distance she could barely make out the pale figure as it fell toward the ground. No human being could survive a fall from that height and somehow Willow was almost certain that it was a human being plunging to their doom.
She was on her feet in an instant, ready to use her powers to save the newcomer when Raven snapped at her, "Conceal your presence, Willow. Such an intrusion is bound to attract Trigon's attention." The black-clad woman rose in a smooth motion, "I will deal with this."
Despite her misgivings about trusting anyone else's fate to Raven's hands, the redhead did as she was told without ever taking her eyes off the falling figure which seemed to be glowing now with a steadily building white luminescence. Willow saw Raven teleport away at the edge of her vision, even as the falling shape slowed down. When it changed position, turning in a very controlled way, she could tell that it was clearly both human and female... and definitely blonde.
Within moments the girl had descended to a point where Willow could no longer see anything of her except the glare of her radiance against the darkening sky. A few seconds later she felt a calm, familiar presence scouring the landscape. It was almost identical to the presence she had felt searching for her a little more than six weeks ago, but not exactly. In fact, this particular presence felt even more like the redhead's increasingly fuzzy memory of Chloe's presence than it had before, but she was reluctant to reveal herself to it. In the wake of that last event, Raven had convinced her not to trust her vague impressions of the presence's intentions, because there was just too much at stake to take such chances. So she did as she was told and concealed her presence against casual detection, forcing herself to relax as the being's awareness seemed to hang heavily on the air around her.
There was an odd sort of hesitancy about the sensation of the being's focus, as though it was certain that it had found something but was unsure about whether or not it had found what it was looking for. Finally, after a long and incredibly tense moment, Willow heard a distinctly familiar voice in the confines of her own mind say, "Willow?"
Even as the redhead recognized Chloe's voice, the presence receded with startling speed. The surge of exultant joy that swelled in Willow's breast could not be denied. Her friends had not only found her, they had come to rescue her. Releasing her futile attempts to hide herself, she drew on her power and moved between spaces to appear near Chloe and Raven. What she saw on arrival shocked her.
Chloe was floating regally a few feet above the blasted and desolate ground and glowing with an aura of pure white light. She wore a uniform of pristine, form-fitting, white leather which left her arms bare from shoulders to the pair of matching, skin tight, leather gloves that began just at her wrists. The uniform was accented with a wide silver armband around each of the girl's biceps and a wide silver belt that rode low over her hips. Thankfully, she wasn't wearing her mask, which would have matched the other silver accessories of the uniform nicely, because if she had been, Willow would have doubted the girl's identity. She floated there, open and exposed, with complete self-confidence, like a sexy blonde angel come to rescue the damsel in distress.
Raven, however, seemed decidedly unimpressed. "You should not have come here, outlander," she announced in a deadly quiet voice. Neither of the two seemed to notice Willow as Chloe spun to face Raven just in time to stop a potentially lethal attack.
Willow was left flabbergasted by Raven's actions. Even in her most unstable moments over the past few weeks, the other girl had never seemed unhinged enough to attack someone without provocation. The redhead was so shocked that she completely missed Chloe's response, but she didn't miss the furious assault that resulted from the blonde's words nor did she miss the swell of Trigon's power in her mentor. For the first time since she had arrived in Azerath, Willow recognized the source of Raven's great facility with her powers. It came so much easier to her because she drew the power not from herself, like Willow did, but rather directly from Trigon without filtering it through her own soul.
"Who are you?" Raven screamed angrily, with more than a hint of madness in her voice.
"I am Chloe of Olympus, daughter of the Goddess Metis and the God Hermes," the blonde announced with cool confidence. "I have come to take Willow home where she belongs."
Even as Willow processed Chloe's words and realized that apparently she wasn't the only one who'd learned a few surprising things about herself, she heard Raven's shouted denial, “No! She's mine and you can't have her! I won't be left alone again!"
It would almost have been sweet, if not for the disturbingly possessive insanity behind it. Almost.
She heard Chloe curse loudly and watched as the blonde sprang into motion with a surprising grace and avoided a renewed, even more intense assault from Raven. It took Willow only an instant to recognize what her former, because Willow certainly wasn't taking anymore lessons from this psycho, teacher was doing and knew that Chloe would fall for it. She couldn't possibly avoid it, since Willow herself had fallen for the trap more than once during her training. Luckily, Raven hadn't actually been trying to kill her at the time, but she certainly wouldn't hesitate to end Chloe's life... unless Willow did something to stop her.
Willow's eyes narrowed in concentration. This would be a very messy and painful way to die if she didn't time her intervention perfectly. She watched intently as Chloe fell for the trap, waiting for the instant when Raven committed herself to the final part of the gambit, and then she moved. She slipped into the space between and put herself next to Chloe. Rather than emerging back into the world, she tore a hole in the veil between here and there and jerked Chloe into the blackness of between-space a split-second before the rocks would have crushed her into a fine paste. She wrapped her arms tightly around the shocked blonde and sealed the tear before moving them as far from Raven as possible and returning to real-space.
* * * * *
* Now *
Chloe gasped as she felt arms wrap tightly around her in the absolute blackness of the lightless void she had been pulled into. She felt a strange mix of softness and taut muscle that she recognized as a very fit female body pressing against her for a long moment before the world of Azerath exploded back into being around her. There was a long, tense heartbeat of hesitation before the embrace loosened and a familiar female voice spoke.
"Are you alright, Chloe?" Willow asked softly, releasing her friend from the suddenly awkward hug.
"Oh Willow!" Chloe exclaimed, whirling to face the redhead and hugging her fiercely. "You can't believe how much your timing doesn't suck!"
"I'm just glad to see you," Willow returned the embrace with just as much fervor. "How are the others? Is everyone okay? I was so worried you guys had given up on finding me weeks ago..."
The Olympian pulled back in absolute shock, "Weeks? How long have you been here, Willow?"
"That was my 112th sunset in Azerath, so about 112 days...give or take a bit," the other girl answered, suddenly confused. "I would have thought you would know that..."
"Willow, back in Olympus, less than two hours have passed since you came here," Chloe explained with a thoughtful look. "Time must flow differently here...for every minute there, about a day passes here."
"What?!" the shocked dismay in the redhead's voice could probably have been heard by a deaf person. "How is that even possible?"
The blonde shrugged, "Trigon makes the rules here, so maybe he can control the flow of time too... But we should get out of here before his avatar shows up and tries to kill me again."
"It's far too late for that, outlander," Raven's voice cut across their conversation like a blade, causing both girls to flinch visibly before turning to face her. The black-clad woman's face, or rather what visible of her face beneath her hood, was etched with a cold fury. "I can't believe you would betray me like this, Willow. After everything that I've taught you, everything that I've done for you..."
"I couldn't just stand by and let you kill my friend, Raven," Willow's voice was hard as she spoke. The two Justice Leaguers drifted apart a short distance, remaining a few feet above the ground and giving themselves room to maneuver.
"I tried to make this easy for you, you ungrateful bitch," Raven's voice was thick with venom and hatred, "a few more days here and your pathetic world would be Trigon's and you wouldn't even have to experience the billions of deaths he'd cause. It would have been easy and you'd have remained here for the rest of eternity...with me." The woman's face twisted in disgust and anger, "Now I'm just going to have to kill you instead."
"Over my dead body," Chloe declared angrily.
"That was the general idea," the avatar of Trigon agreed with a sneer. "First she watches you die...then she joins you."
The battle began in an explosive flurry of activity. Raven lashed out with Trigon's power and another great stone hand surged up from the ground to grab at Chloe. The blonde was ready for that move this time, however, and smashed the hand with a burst of raw telekinetic force while Willow hurled a blast of shadow-black energy at Raven. Trigon's servant flitted out of the path of the attack before launching another assault on Chloe by ripping half-dozen large chucks of rock out of the ground and hurling them at the Olympians with her powers.
Chloe used a weak telekinetic shield to deflect the projectiles and smiled tightly as an idea came to mind. She snagged a small rock, about the size of a large marble, and fired it at her opponent with potentially lethal force. Surprised by the effective counterattack, Raven threw up a shield of her own. Seeing the woman fall for the feint, the blonde reached out with her mind, created a powerful telekinetic fist inside her foe's shield, and slammed it viciously into her chest. The impact stunned the girl, which allowed a second stone, hurled with slightly less force by Willow, to glance off Raven's shoulder with a loud crack.
Raven screamed in pain, her arm falling to hang limply at her side as a result of the obviously broken bone in her shoulder, and rounded furiously on Willow. The avatar's hood slipped back to reveal an almost entirely inhuman face with four glowing red eyes. "You cannot win, mortals," she proclaimed in a voice that no longer sounded even remotely human. It was a rough, hoarse sound that grated against the ears and reverberated with ancient power. "Even if you slay this vessel, I will not be denied."
"Raven, you don't want to do this," Willow shouted back. "You can fight him, like you taught me too!"
"Raven does not exist, foolish child," the voice boomed. "There is only Trigon!" The entire world around them began to shake violently. "Look upon your end and despair!"
Realizing that the battle had attracted Trigon's full powers and focus to the realm of Azerath, Chloe knew there was only one option for them. They had to get out before Trigon manifested fully enough to stop them, which meant time was rapidly running out. "Willow!" the blonde shouted, moving close to the other girl. "We can't beat him, not here, not now. You have to take us out of Azerath and back to Olympus!"
"I can't!" The frightened redhead shouted back, straining to be heard over the rumbling cacophony that threatened to consume the world around them. "I'm not strong enough, I've tried!"
"Then use my strength!" Chloe shouted back before pulling the startled girl close and kissing her.
As their lips touched, Chloe felt her power flare out around them, enveloping both herself and Willow completely and somehow freezing the moment around them. It was entirely unexpected, but not unwelcome. Willow stiffened in a strange sort of surprised panic, her body going rigid in the blonde's embrace for several long seconds. The reaction exactly unexpected, but it still terrified Chloe. If she couldn't make this work they were both going to die...
The Olympian shoved aside the rush of fear that tried to overwhelm her, being afraid in a moment like this one was... counter-productive to the say the least. Instead, she focused on the kiss itself, drawing on her vivid, if slightly disturbing, memories of how Athena had kissed her such a short time ago to try and coax Willow into relaxing and participating. She opened her senses to Willow, perceiving the girl in a way that was impossible to fully define. The redhead was a twisting mass of contradictory and confused thoughts and emotions. Fear, shock, disbelief, and... desire swirled in a tangled knot in the girl's mind that surprised the hell out of Chloe.
Willow... the shy, reserved girl who had never even really been kissed before... the intrepid young hacker that Chloe had gotten to know fairly well through many a late night chat session since Xander came to Smallville, was hiding a secret. It was a secret so deep that she had even mostly kept it from herself, living in denial of it until quite recently.
She liked girls... in a very definitely sexual kind of way. In fact, it turned out that Xander was the only boy that redhead had ever been even remotely interested in sexually.
It seemed impossible to Chloe... but there it was, as plain as day to her telepathic and empathic senses. It came as a surprise, but one of the reasons why Willow was so freaked out by the kiss was even more surprising. It seemed that in the last few weeks she'd spent in Azerath, the redhead had been forced to come to terms with the fact that she had a crush... on Chloe... who was now kissing her.
The revelations shocked the hell out of the Olympian. For a long moment, Chloe had no idea how to react to the sudden insights she'd gained into her friend's psyche. The idea that Willow found her sexually desirable was strangely flattering and even sort of exciting, but she was straight... wasn't she? It wasn't like she found the idea of making out with other girls exactly repugnant or anything... but then she'd never really thought about it before now either. Of course, the idea of thinking of herself as totally straight while she was actively kissing another girl was sort of ludicrous, but it was a special situation... or was that just another rationalization?
Resisting the urge to delve deeper into Willow's mind with her powers, Chloe pulled her telepathic awareness back and just focused on the other girl's emotions. She pulled Willow against her more tightly, hoping that it would help the redhead relax into the moment only to realize that she was enjoying the feel of the contact between their bodies. Abruptly, Chloe stopped treating the kiss like something that she had to do and she let herself just feel it. She let herself just slip totally into the moment without over-thinking it or trying to justify it.
Abruptly the kiss seemed to change. Suddenly she wasn't kissing Willow because she had to or because it was the only way to save them both from dying at Trigon's hand, she was just kissing her to kiss her. The shift in the blonde's focus and motivation changed everything, giving the kiss a life of its own that would not, could not, be denied.
* * * * *
From the very moment that Willow realized what Chloe was about to do, the Titan's daughter tensed up and resisted the urge to just give in to the moment. The redhead had spent the last several weeks coming to terms with the fact that she had a crush on the blonde, and it hadn't been easy. The momentary sense she had felt that evening so many weeks ago had sparked off a series of increasingly passionate and erotic dreams, in which the reporter turned hacker turned superhero had held a starring role. The dreams had forced her to deal with aspects of her personality that she had long denied. Unfortunately, that was exactly the problem: she had dealt with it.
She had come to terms with the fact that, while she found Chloe incredibly attractive both physically and mentally, Chloe hadn't shown any sign of reciprocating those feelings. She had accepted that friendship was all she could realistically expect or hope for from a relationship with Chloe because of her attraction to Xander. Unfortunately, knowing and accepting those facts didn't stop her from wanting more.
And then Chloe kissed her... but not because she wanted to, or because she felt what Willow felt, but because it was necessary to try and save both of their lives. Fate, it seemed, had a rather cruel sense of humor. She had given up the first person she ever loved, Xander, only to realize she had fallen for the woman she gave him up to... who was now kissing her for what seemed like all the wrong reasons. All she needed now was a paper cut and some lemon juice to really complete the pain trifecta.
The redhead wanted desperately to let go of her self-control, to give in to the moment and pretend that this kiss, her first real kiss, meant something, but she couldn't. She couldn't force herself to believe that lie, not when she could so clearly sense what Chloe really felt. It sucked to be a contact empath, because she couldn't turn it off even when she wanted to very badly... as long as she had skin to skin contact with another sentient being, she would always know precisely how they really felt.
Then, without warning, something changed in the blonde. Her fear, her desperation and her reluctance were swept away in an explosion of surprise. In its wake, a strange mixture of emotions swelled in place of the fear: she felt flattered, confused, curious, excited, and slightly overwhelmed all at once. There were still small undercurrents of fear and doubt in Chloe's mind, but even they were different now. It was no longer the fear of death and a doubt that the kiss would accomplish its purpose, now it was the sort of fear and doubt that Willow would have expected from a first kiss between two people. Chloe was no longer kissing her just because she had to... now she was also doing it because she needed to try and understand what she was feeling.
The change rocked Willow to the core. Before she could consciously even consider the implications, she felt something happen inside of her. The blonde's body seemed to burn against hers, sending an uncontrollable flush of excitement through her. Strange warmth seemed to flow into her from the other girl, pouring out of every pore of Chloe's body and soaking into her. It wasn't love exactly, or any other purely emotional experience, but more of an acceptance of the possibility that there just might be something more than just friendship here.
That possibility, that tantalizing chance that this could be real, swept away the last of the redhead's resistance. Willow melted into the embrace, accepting the kiss as what it had suddenly become... not a promise of something more, but rather an exploration of what might be. She felt Chloe's tongue slip into her mouth as the blonde's hands began to her body and in that moment, Willow gave herself over to the kiss completely.
Suddenly, Willow felt the soft, supple leather of Chloe's uniform under her hand as she grabbed the blonde's ass and pulled her closer. One of the Olympian's hands tangled in her hair, unintentionally pulling it just enough to send a tiny jolt of pain through Willow, a pain that seemed to set her entire body thrumming with excitement. It felt as they were on the verge of something... something earth shattering.
In the moments that followed both girls lost themselves in the experience, their clumsy mutual groping grew bolder and less clumsy as they quickly discovered what each other enjoyed by paying attention to their empathic senses. Every touch left them craving more, each caress sent fire flowing through their veins that could not be quenched, until it finally happened. Something seemed to break open inside of the girls, and a rush of the same white-hot brilliance that Chloe had experienced in her kiss with Athena threatened to overwhelm them both. For a single, eternal instant both girls were joined together in a feeling of pleasure that was almost painful in its intensity. The sensation seemed to ripple through them with a rush of raw power unlike anything either of them had ever known before.
There was no thought, no focusing of will, because neither of the girls were even remotely capable of such high level functioning at that point, but something remarkable happened. For just a moment, it was as if they were no longer two separate individuals, but rather a single being that merely happened to occupy two bodies. Their combined unconscious minds grabbed hold of the power and channeled it, focusing it into a single act. The world of Azerath seemed to explode around them, vanishing in a brilliant conflagration of light and sound and sensation that could not be ignored.
Willow's eyes snapped open and her body sat bolt up right with a shuddering gasp as her psychic self was abruptly thrust back into its physical vessel. The movement, and the slight bit of friction it created between her legs, sent her over the edge on a massive wave of residual pleasure that threatened to send her crashing back into unconsciousness and left her biting back a scream of orgasmic release. Her eyes flicked toward the other rustle of motion that she heard, the matching gasp and half-suppressed moan revealing the other person's identity as surely as what she saw.
Chloe was sitting up on another couch a short distance away, terribly flushed and trembling visibly in the wake of her own climax. In short, she looked exactly like Willow felt.
Somehow, Willow had a feeling that everything was about to get very, very complicated between them.