Chapter 44 – Losing Battles
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: Here's the part that so many of you have been waiting on for a while now...the eruption of Mt. St. Jonathan. I hope you enjoy it.
-== Chapter Forty-Four – Losing Battles ==-
Jonathan and Martha let the miles of their journey slip past in silence. They had tried for a while to listen to the radio as they drove the truck home from Metropolis, but had quickly given that up. It seemed like every radio station in Kansas, if not the entire world, was completely awash in talk of what had happened in Los Angeles. Thor, Superman, and Green Lantern were names that everyone on Earth would be well acquainted with before the furor over their actions began to subside. Equally troubling, at least to Martha and Jonathan, was the way that the media was clamoring to know who was behind the masks.
Jonathan found it particularly disturbing that some stations were bandying about the death toll from the battle along with estimates of property damage and injuries in one breath and proposing wild conspiracy theories involving the teens in the next. He found it downright frightening that the possibility of the teens being aliens wasn’t even the most outlandish idea being suggested. What bothered him more than anything else, however, was the fact that so many people were either wildly praising the teens’ actions or condemning them as criminals and a threat to everything that America held dear.
For his part, Jonathan was furious with his sons. What they had done, the risks they had taken, were beyond irresponsible. It had been reckless, in a way that he hadn’t thought possible. Clark, at least, should have known better. He should have done everything that he could to try and keep the others from doing something so obviously questionable, if not downright illegal. They could have been arrested, should still be arrested according to many of their more vocal critics, or they could have ended up exposing their identities to the entire world. He simply couldn’t understand what they had been thinking.
Martha, on the other hand, spent the long silent miles on their trip home wondering at what the news reports hadn’t said. She knew that the would-be superheroes had flown away after the battle without obvious injury, but beyond that she knew nothing. They’d been followed by many of the helicopters present at the scene, but had quickly lost their pursuers and seemed to simply vanish into thin air. She had no way of knowing where they were of if the children were actually okay or not. She knew that Jonathan was fuming about what they’d done, about what they’d risked, and knew that there would be no peace in her home in the aftermath of today, but she was still proud of her sons. They’d done the right thing, even if Jonathan couldn’t see it, and had saved people’s lives in the process. It was just too bad that her husband would have so much trouble coming to terms with that.
That wasn’t to say that she wasn’t upset with the boys, because she certainly was. She merely knew them well enough to realize that they couldn’t have stood by and done nothing no matter what her husband thought. As the daughter of a successful attorney, Martha also knew all too well that what was morally right and what was legal just didn’t always match. Sometimes the law had to be bent or broken in order to do the right thing, and that was a lesson that Jonathan would have a hard time dealing with. She just hoped that Xander and Clark could force him to realize that, because she knew from experience that she couldn’t.
Both of the Kents were lost in their thoughts as Jonathan turned the truck down the driveway of the family farm, so it took them a long moment to notice the two figures standing on their porch steps. Clark and a short, Asian girl seemed almost frozen in place by their arrival. The girl was dressed in a skirt, tights that had several ragged holes in them, heavy, high-heeled boots and a dark-colored baby doll t-shirt with bright green oriental characters on it. The shirt fit very tightly and revealed a thin strip of her midriff between its bottom and the top of the skirt. Her hair was streaked with green and she was wearing some kind of choker around her neck. She also had one hand on Clark’s shoulder in a comforting gesture.
Xander, however, was no where to be seen.
Jonathan frowned, deciding that this girl must be the mysterious Green Lantern. She certainly seemed to vaguely resemble the green and black clad young lady that they’d seen, briefly, in the television footage they’d watched in Metropolis and had a similar taste in clothing. His frown deepened as he realized that resemblance was almost entirely superficial, despite the fact that she hadn’t worn a mask during the battle. In fact, if not for her presence here, and Jonathan’s certainty that his sons had been the so-called Superman and Thor, he wouldn’t have made the connection between this girl and her alter-ego at all.
It was also pretty obvious that, whoever she was, she knew Clark’s identity, which really bothered him. Why would Clark have told someone about his powers, especially someone that neither he nor Martha had ever even met? It just wasn’t like his son to be so cavalier with his secrets. Xander must have been a bad influence on him.
As they climbed out of the truck, a brilliant flare of bluish-white lightning seemed to explode out of nowhere, followed a split-second later by a loud crack of thunder and a rush of displaced air. The adult Kents turned away for a moment, squinting against the blast of illumination in the gathering gloom of early twilight. Blinking away the afterimages of the flash, they turned back to find Xander standing in front of the porch steps holding Mjolnir above his head. Chloe Sullivan and a rather pale looking red-haired girl had also appeared from nowhere and were standing just behind him. Chloe was wearing a form-fitting outfit of white leather with silver accents that stood out sharply against the rest of the group, while the redhead was rather plainly dressed.
Jonathan sighed, fixing Xander with a disappointed look. Judging by their mode of arrival, he’d wager that everyone present probably knew about both Clark and Xander’s abilities. He wondered if Xander even understood the concept of a secret…
* * * * *
Clark blinked a couple times and felt a wide grin spread over his face as he saw Xander, Chloe, and Willow standing there. His apprehension over dealing with his folks was instantly forgotten in the relief of seeing everyone alive and unharmed. At least that was one less thing that he’d have to try and explain. Before anyone else could react, Xander turned toward Willow and Chloe with a relieved look on his face.
“You guys okay?” the Thunder God asked quickly. “I’ve never actually brought other people with me like that… I wasn’t entirely sure that it’d work.”
“Okay? Yeah,” Chloe answered with a slight shudder, “but I’d be a lot happier if you never do that again. It’s a lot less jarring and abrupt when Willow teleports…”
At Willow’s fervent nod of agreement, the Aesir grinned sheepishly. “No more group teleporting, except in emergencies, got it,” he said with a hint of humor in his voice. “Clark, Midori,” the deity turned his gaze toward them as he spoke, appearing to ignore his father’s glare altogether, “Everything okay?”
“Everything’s great now that you three are back,”” Midori answered, the relief in her voice was undeniable. “Where were you guys? What happened?”
“That’s…” Chloe began, meeting Xander’s gaze for a moment and sensing a wave of reluctance sweep through the Aesir, “a really long story that’ll have to wait for just a bit.”
The five teens heard Jonathan clear his throat loudly from where he stood near the truck. Almost instantly, five sets of very impassive eyes fixed on the man. “We should go inside,” he said flatly, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice and failing miserably. “I think you all have a lot of explaining to do.”
Clark hated hearing the obvious disappointment and frustration in his father’s voice. It was a tone that he’d heard rarely enough before Xander had come into their lives, but the sad fact was that his brother seemed able to provoke that reaction without even trying. He knew that his dad cared a lot about Xander, despite their serious ideological differences, and was just trying to do what he thought was right, but that didn’t change anything, not really. Their dad needed to realize that Xander’s moral compass would never match up with his own and that fact didn’t mean that either of them were exactly right or wrong. The problem was that they were both to stubborn to back down on what they believed in, and the resulting clashes tended to be unpleasant.
It took the Kryptonian a long moment to realize that none of the teens had moved yet, despite the fact that Jonathan had essentially just ordered them all to go inside with full force of parental authority. None of them, himself included, had so much as budged in response, a fact that made Clark suppress a smile. There was a long moment of tension between Xander and Jonathan that Clark recognized as somehow necessary. Whether they all consciously realized it or not, this moment was establishing the very foundation of the upcoming argument. It was showing their dad that they would not meekly back down just because they were told to do so.
Finally, Xander looked at Willow and spoke, “Will, when is your mom expecting you to meet up with her for the trip back to Sunnydale from LA?”
“She’s not,” the redhead answered. “I’ve got a bus ticket back to Sunnydale because mom has to be on a flight from LA to Metropolis tomorrow. Dad’s meeting her there for some kind of meeting with a couple of big wigs from some research institute that’s interested in funding some of their work. As long as I’m back in Sunnydale before school Monday morning, no one will even notice.”
The Thunder God nodded once and led the rest of the Justice League into the house. Within moments the five teens and two adults were arrayed around Martha’s kitchen with everyone wearing carefully neutral expressions. Without a word, Martha went about putting on a pot of coffee while Jonathan glared at the five teens.
“So how much of what happened did you see?” Clark finally asked, opening the can of worms that he’d been dreading for a while now.
“We saw more than enough, Clark,” Jonathan snapped angrily. “Thor, Superman, and Green Lantern have been all over the news to the exclusion of all else for hours.”
“Really?” Willow asked excitedly, before realizing that the older man didn’t see this as something to be happy about and closing her mouth abruptly.
He turned his angry gaze away from the others and focused his glare on Xander, “What were you thinking, risking exposure like that?”
“We,” Midori cut in very sharply, drawing Jonathan’s attention away from Xander and making it clear that no one individual here was wholly responsible for what happened, “were thinking that people were getting hurt and dying and that we could stop it.”
“And I guess that somewhere along the way you decided that it was just okay to reveal your secrets to complete strangers?” this time the Kent patriarch’s angry comment was directed at Clark. “It was bad enough that Xander insisted on telling Chloe and Willow about his abilities, but you know better Clark!”
“The only people at this table who don’t have special abilities of their own are you and mom,” Xander interjected calmly. “We all shared our
secrets with one another because we all take the same risks in doing so.”
That drew Jonathan up short and caused Martha to shoot a quick look at Chloe. Seeing the question in the older woman’s glance, the blonde smiled and seized the opportunity, “Yeah that includes me. It turns out that I had a few super-powered skeletons in my closet too, and they picked today to reveal themselves.” She gave a tight smile. “Come to find out that I’m no more human than Xander. My mother was an Olympian and so was my real father, though I’d appreciate if we kept that fact from my dad. I don’t want to be the one to tell him his ex-wife cheated on him.”
While Martha, Jonathan, Clark and Midori were looking at the blonde in shock, Willow spoke up. “I’m not exactly human either,” she added bluntly. “Technically, I’m the daughter of the last of the Titans… or at least, sort of. It’s kind of complicated.”
“Guess that makes me the only human being in the room besides Mom and Pop Kent then,” Midori said with a wide grin, “and yet, I’m the one who’s a member of an intergalactic police force. Go figure. I’m Midori, by the way, since we’ve never been introduced.”
“Oh…and I’m Willow,” the redhead interjected cheerfully, waving at the two adults, “it’s nice to finally meet you Mr. and Mrs. Kent. Xander’s had nothing but good things to say about you both.”
Like Xander, it was all Clark could do to suppress a smile and a laugh. He’d never seen his father look quite as… gob-smacked as the short stream of introductions had left him. At this rate, they just might manage to get through this without a fight. Maybe.
* * * * *
Jonathan felt like he’d just been slapped in the face. In a few short moments he’d been confronted with the knowledge that he currently had five super-powered teenagers under his roof, four of whom weren’t human. Truthfully, it wasn’t the fact that most of them weren’t human that bothered him, though he had to admit that he wasn’t expecting non-humans to be the norm among Clark and Xander’s friends. It was the idea of five children who not only possessed super-human abilities, but who also weren’t afraid to use them in full view of the public. Especially if they were all taking their cues on right and wrong and how and when to use their abilities from Xander, as seemed to be the case.
It wasn’t that Xander was a bad kid, far from it in fact. It was just that his ideas of right and wrong had been skewed by his experiences in Sunnydale. His willingness to bend or break the rules in an effort to do what he thought was right terrified Jonathan, as did the fact that the others seemed to look up to him. There were all just young and hadn’t yet realized that the rules, the laws that held civilization together, had to apply to everyone equally.
He finally shook off his surprise and refocused his attention on the real issue. “The three of you still had no business getting involved in what happened in Los Angeles,” he stated sharply, turning back to Xander. “The police…”
“…were dying left and right,” the Aesir countered, his voice hard. “The man that they were fighting wasn’t just immune to the weapons they were using against him. He could actually absorb the impacts of the bullets and grow stronger and more deadly.” He met Jonathan’s eyes. “The police couldn’t have stopped him. If we hadn’t intervened, he’d have slaughtered every last one of them and God knows how many innocent bystanders.”
“You don’t know that Xander!” Jonathan protested angrily. “You can’t know what would have happened.”
“He’s right, dad,” Clark said, following Xander’s example and keeping his voice calm if slightly hard-edged. “The guy threatened to kill everyone in his path before we stopped him… before Xander stopped him. We were barely able to bring him down, how could normal police officers have stood a chance against him?”
“That’s not the point, Clark,” the older man argued. “What you did was illegal! There are laws in this country against taking justice into your own hands like that!”
“We didn’t take justice into our own hands,” Midori pointed out coolly. “All we did was help stop a dangerous criminal and allow the authorities to take him into custody. We didn’t even resort to violence until after he attacked us.”
“That still doesn’t make what you did right!” Jonathan snapped sharply.
“So what would have been right then?” Willow asked abruptly. “To stand around and do nothing? To sit by and watch while a mad man rampaged through the streets killing people?” Her voice took on a sharp, whip-like quality as she spoke. “How many people have to die before it’s more wrong to do nothing than to break the law to save lives? At what point do people’s lives mean more than empty semantics and arguments about relative morality? After a dozen people die? Two dozen?”
He bristled angrily at the accusation in her tone, “I’m not saying…”
“But you are, Mr. Kent,” Chloe interrupted. “How many people died as a result of that man’s actions this afternoon? How many people did he injure? How much higher might those numbers have been if he wasn’t stopped when he was?” She paused for an instant to let the questions sink in. “Because if you’re telling us that stopping him was the wrong thing to do, then you’re saying it’s perfectly okay to sit by and watch that many people die, even if we can stop it.”
“No, I’m not,” he tried to argue, “I’m saying that it wasn’t your place… you’re just kids…” He trailed off, his words suddenly seeming empty and hollow, even in his own ears.
“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing to stop it,” Xander’s soft words sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet that had fallen. “You’re looking at five good people who refuse to let evil win because we stood by and did nothing.”
Jonathan stood up wordlessly and left the room, closing the outside door behind him hard, but not quite slamming it.
* * * * *
The five teens and Martha all stared at the door in the wake of Jonathan’s departure in varying degrees of shock and dismay. No one had expected him to storm out like that. It was Clark who finally broke the moment by speaking.
“That went better than I really expected it to,” the Kryptonian said, sounding every bit as surprised as he looked...
“I don’t think that the argument is necessarily over yet,” Martha cautioned with a frown.
“I doubt that this argument will ever be completely finished,” Xander commented with a sigh. “I fully expect to revisit it every time this team does something he disagrees with… which will probably be every time that we suit up and stop the bad guy.”
“Every time,” Martha asked, sounding upset by the thought of this happening again.
“You don’t really think that was the last time there’ll ever be a villain the police can’t handle, do you?” Chloe asked pointedly. “This guy in LA was only the beginning. The world is changing, Mrs. Kent, people with abilities like ours are going to be cropping up all over.”
“And not all of them are going to be interested in doing the right thing,” Midori added with a sharp nod of her head.
Seeing the look on his mother’s face, the Kryptonian changed the subject. “So what happened to you two? We got back to the student center and you were gone,” he asked, looking at Chloe and Willow.
Chloe looked at Willow for a long moment as well before the redhead spoke up. “I, uh, made a wish and my powers decided to try and make it come true,” she began with a sheepish smile. “Chloe ended up in Olympus and I ended up in this nasty little hell dimension called Azerath.”
Xander frowned. He hadn’t exactly had the opportunity to ask the girls what had happened to them yet. “What on Earth did you wish for?” he asked abruptly.
Chloe jumped in to answer that one, “She wished for a way for me and her to master our powers more quickly… so that we wouldn’t be stuck on the sidelines next time.” The blonde couldn’t help but giggle before continuing. “And she got her wish. Athena helped me out by shoving all the knowledge I needed about how to use my abilities into my mind…”
“While I spent 112 days trapped in Azerath learning how to use my powers from one of the Titan’s other daughters,” Willow added quickly. She met the disbelieving stares of most of the rest of the group with a shrug. “Apparently time passed slower there… a minute here was a day there. Or would that be faster there than here? I don’t really want to think about that too much. It gives me a headache when I do.”
“So how did you get back to Olympus from Azerath?” the Thunder God asked, eyes wide.
“Chloe rescued me,” the redhead said with a smile, leaving out the details to save the blonde from embarrassment. “With her powers boosting mine, we were able to escape from Azerath and make it back to Olympus, where Xander found us.”
“So is that where you picked up the new look Chloe?” Midori asked with a smile. “It’ll make a nice uniform if you add the mask that Hermes gave you… and it looks really, really good on you.”
“Uh, yeah, my other outfit turned into this when I went to Azerath,” she replied with a slight blush. “I think that Athena might’ve had something to do with it, but in all the excitement before we left, I forgot to ask about it.” She gave Xander a pointed look and left him an opening to regale them with the story of what else had happened while they were in Olympus.
“There was excitement in Olympus?” Midori questioned, realizing that there was something of interest here. Something that, judging by the expression on the blonde’s face, was probably going to be embarrassing for Xander.
“It was nothing, really,” Xander said quickly, hoping that Chloe and Willow would just let it go. He hadn’t really planned to bring up his recent wedding, especially not in front of his parents, until he absolutely had to. Unfortunately, it seemed that the girls had other plans, plans that apparently included him coming clean about it right now.
“It wasn’t 'nothing', Xander,” Willow countered, fixing him with the stern look that she tended to refer to as her ‘resolve face’. “Now either you can tell everyone what happened… or I’m sure Chloe and I will be more than happy to do it for you.”
The Aesir sighed loudly. God or not, he apparently was still no match for Willow’s resolve face. “I, uh, accidentally married Athena while I was in Olympus,” he blurted out quickly, bracing for the backlash he knew the announcement would generate.
Clark, Midori, and Martha stared at him, jaws dropping open in shock. “You did what?!” Martha’s voice sounded like a bomb going off in the silence that followed his admission.
Xander just dropped his head and wondered exactly what he had done to piss Murphy off.
* * * * *
Jonathan stood on the porch of the farmhouse for a few long, quiet moments, thinking about the argument and what Xander and the others had said. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, they made a very good point. If they had been normal, average adults who stopped a normal, average criminal from hurting someone, they’d have been hailed as heroes. Why was this really any different?
What they had done had saved lives. He certainly couldn’t deny the truth of that. According to the news reports, not a single person was seriously injured after the teens had intervened. Even if what they had done was illegal, which he was less and less sure of the more he thought about it, certainly saving those lives was more important… Was the letter of the law more important than one man’s life? Or two? Or ten?” Where was the line?
Hiram Kent had raised his son to believe in the law, to believe in an absolute right and wrong, and Jonathan had tried to pass that belief on to his own sons in turn. The problem, it seemed, was that he suddenly wondered if he’d ever really fully understood what his father had believed. His dad had been a righteous, god-fearing man, like most of his generation had been, but Jonathan couldn’t imagine him valuing any law over an innocent person’s life. The only difference was that, to Jonathan’s knowledge, his father had never been left in a situation where he would’ve had to make such a choice. His father hadn’t ever found himself feeling responsible for the actions of a group of super-powered young people who believed they had an absolute obligation to make a stand against evil.
But they were just kids, a part of him tried to argue, they were too young to fully understand what they were getting involved in…
Even as that thought formed, Jonathan forced himself to dismiss it. The arguments they’d made for what they did hadn’t been the arguments of children. Whether he really wanted to or not, he had to accept that life had apparently forced all five of these young people to grow up quickly. They were young, yes, and they still had a lot to learn about the world and their place in it, but they were definitely adults. And, as much as it pained him to do so, he needed to start treating them like adults.
He let out an audible sigh and leaned against the frame of the porch, staring out into the gathering dusk. He didn’t like the situation, not even a little bit, but he didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. Xander was far too stubborn to be dissuaded from the path they’d started down today and Jonathan had no doubt that the others would follow him no matter who protested.
“It’s never easy, is it?” an unfamiliar female voice asked from the shadows behind him.
He turned toward the sound quickly, knowing that no one had been there a moment before. Leaning against the wall next to the kitchen door stood a beautiful young woman, who looked to be in her early twenties at most. She wore an un-tucked, form-fitting, three-quarter sleeve, button down blouse in a pale cream color and tight denim jeans that were tucked into calf-high, low heeled, leather boots. If not for a few differences, like her dark hair, Jonathan would’ve thought it was Chloe standing there.
“Who are you?” he demanded, the woman’s presence unnerving him a little.
She smiled teasingly. “I suppose, since we’re family, I can introduce myself. I am Athena… and you didn’t answer my question.”
Jonathan tensed slightly at the name. He knew from his vague recollections of high school literature classes that this was one of Xander’s Olympian cousins, a being that had long been regarded as a goddess. “What’s never easy?” he asked cautiously.
“Accepting that your sons have destiny so much greater than that of ordinary men,” her smile faded to a look of sad sympathy. “Clark and Xander have both chosen to embrace their destinies, Jonathan Kent, and if you fight to try and hold them back… you will lose them forever.”
The man bristled slightly at the comment, forgetting how dangerous this woman could be if she wanted. “They didn’t choose this,” he argued, “It was pushed on them by others.”
“Was it?” she asked, her voice carrying a mocking edge. “No one forced Xander to help the Slayer guard the Hellmouth. No one forced him to try and protect his friends and family. No one forced him or Clark to save Lex Luthor’s life.” She stopped and raised an eyebrow. “Shall I go on?”
“You’ve made your point,” he conceded bitterly.
“No,” she corrected. “That wasn’t my point at all. I merely needed you to see beyond your objections. This is my point: your sons are extraordinary men and they, and their friends, have chosen to take on extraordinary responsibilities. This will not be an easy road for any of them to walk and they will need all the support they can muster, including yours, if they are to succeed.”
Jonathan sighed again, really hating the fact that she was right. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he’d always known that Clark, and now Xander, would end up leading lives greater than his own. His sons were special and the time had come for him to accept what that meant for them and for the world.
He opened his mouth and closed it, unable to find the words to say what he wanted to say. Finally, he settled for something simple, “You’re right. I don’t have to like the circumstances and I don’t have to agree with all of their choices, but it’s their decision to make.” His face softened slightly, “But even if I don’t agree with them, that doesn’t mean I won’t be here for them when they need me.”
Athena nodded slowly and listened to the silence that followed for a long moment. Abruptly, the quiet was pierced by the muffled sound of Martha’s voice from inside the kitchen behind them.
“You did what?!”
She smiled and shook her head sadly, wondering how long it would be before Xander learned how to ease people into revelations that were going to make them unhappy. “I do believe that was our cue,” she declared in an amused tone. “Xander has rather clumsily set the stage for another argument that cannot be avoided and I would prefer not to be subjected to it more than once, if possible.”
* * * * *
Xander glanced toward the kitchen door and away from the shocked and angry expression on Martha’s face. It seemed Jonathan was rejoining the conversation just in time to blow up over something else, something he’d be just as unhappy about as the battle in LA and just as powerless to change. At this rate, he figured he’d be lucky if he got off of being grounded before the end of the 21st century.
“What did you do now, Xander?” Jonathan asked with a resigned sigh as stepped back into the kitchen.
“He got married to Athena while he was in Olympus this afternoon,” Martha repeated disapprovingly, “apparently, by accident.” Her skepticism of that claim was abundantly clear in her voice.
Of all the people in the room, only Martha failed to notice the fact that someone else had entered the kitchen behind her husband. It was only when the woman spoke that the Kent matriarch whirled to face the newcomer.
“Xander is telling the truth, Martha Kent,” Athena said sympathetically. “Our marriage was, indeed, accidental… after a fashion.”
A broad smile spread over Xander’s face at the presence of his wife and he seized the opportunity it presented. He rose quickly to his feet and moved around the room to join the Olympian. “Everyone,” he said, the happiness he was feeling had washed away his apprehension over the moment, leaving only joy in his voice, “permit me to introduce the Princess Athena of Olympus, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War… and my wife.”