Chapter 46 – Metamorphosis I
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 Notes: Sorry about the lack of updates over the holidays, but we’ll have to chalk it up to circumstances beyond my control since somebody stole my laptop bag, with my laptop in it, out of my car a few days before Christmas. At any rate, here’s the next update, with another on the way for sometime this weekend.
-== Chapter Forty-Six – Metamorphosis I ==-
Lex Luthor stared at the display on his monitor, studying what he saw there. Three individuals, three extraordinary individuals, stared back at him. The images had been extracted from the live video footage of the incident in Los Angeles and then magnified and enhanced to render the most accurate and detailed scene possible with modern technology. For two of the individuals the process had worked amazingly well, rendering the men calling themselves Thor and Superman with crystal clarity. The Green Lantern’s image, however, had been an utter disaster.
Each attempt to clean up her picture had actually worsened the already blurry and indistinct image. It seemed that even the best image enhancement software in the world had its limitations. And, just as importantly, the Green Lantern seemed to be aware of exactly how to exploit those limitations. It couldn’t possibly be an accident that the green aura surrounding her distorted her appearance in such a way that made digital image enhancement utterly impossible. It was an extremely clever method of obscuring her identity and probably the best clue he had to finding the identities of the mysterious heroes.
Despite the much lower tech approach of the Lantern’s two companions in how they hid their identities, their masks did a surprisingly good job of concealing their features. It was effective enough to render any thought of using facial recognition software pointless. There just weren’t enough viable points of comparison. But there was definitely something about them that seemed vaguely familiar, something that he just couldn’t quite place.
Lex scooped up the glass of scotch he’d been nursing and drained the rest of it, savoring the distinct burn as the smooth liquor slid down his throat. For a young man whose only constant childhood companion had been comic books with their tales of superheroes and super villains, today had been a revelation. Clearly there actually were men and women out there with abilities far beyond those of the average man. The next trick would be locating and identifying them.
As for what to do with them once he found them, Lex already had the answer to that question.
Lex picked up the telephone on his desk and jabbed a button, completely uncaring of the fact that it was well past 10 pm. When a man answered on the other end, Lex began giving orders. “I want a meeting set up for first thing in the morning with the most discrete and trustworthy people on the facility management team,” he told the trusted lackey on the other end. Lex knew that what he was about to do would be risky while his father still had at least one mole inside the Smallville plant, but he had a plan for that too. “We’re going to begin plans for… expansion.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Luthor,” the man replied sharply before Lex hung up the phone.
Lex leaned back in his seat, studying the images once more. Once he had the facilities and personnel in place, he could focus on the more pressing issue of locating subjects for study. It was about time that Level Three had a new project to house and these super-humans had definite potential value.
* * * * *
Xander woke slowly, enjoying the pleasantly muzzy-headed feeling of emerging from a deep and dreamless sleep. His eyes snapped open abruptly as he felt a decidedly female body snuggle closer against him. In an instant the events of the previous day crashed back into his consciousness and he relaxed. He and Athena had talked for hours last night after his parents had decided to give their marriage a chance to work. It had been a somewhat strange experience for him, talking to a beautiful woman that he found very attractive and had actually had sex with. It was like all of the pressure to try and impress her or woo her was just gone and it was pretty liberating.
They’d talked until Athena had grown tired, a fact that had surprised her. She hadn’t realized that she would need sleep while living on Earth, but apparently that came with the territory when one gave up one’s divinity. Having never actually slept before, she had wanted Xander to lie with her while she fell asleep and so they’d ended up snuggled together in his bed and had both drifted off to sleep. In retrospect, he could certainly see the appeal of sleeping with someone. There was just something very comforting and intimate about it.
Athena shifted slightly against him and suddenly Xander became acutely aware of exactly how intimate the experience could be. She’d worn an oversized t-shirt of his to bed, since she’d been largely unprepared for the possibility of getting to stay with him for any length of time yet. Based on the amount of bare flesh now pressed along his body, the t-shirt had ridden up in the night…and Olympians didn’t appear to believe in underwear, because it seemed pretty clear that Athena wasn’t wearing any. The feeling of her bare, smooth inner thigh sliding over him and the warmth of her body through the relatively thin fabric of the boxer shorts he was wearing had an immediate and noticeable effect on him.
To say that he found the situation a bit awkward would have been quite an understatement. Admittedly, he and Athena had had sex before, but that had been in the wake of Aphrodite’s meddling and this most certainly was not. In fact, sex had been one topic of conversation that they had managed to avoid entirely when they’d talked, leaving him uncertain how she might react to finding him both awake and aroused when she woke up. Sighing softly to himself, he decided that the safest thing to do was to slip out of bed as quietly as possible and take a nice cold shower. He also decided that avoiding the sex talk was probably a bad idea if she meant to share his bed with any regularity. At least if he knew her expectations, he could try to avoid any potentially humiliating misunderstandings.
Moving slowly and deliberately, he disengaged himself from his sleeping wife without waking her and managed to get out of bed. Athena settled back into the less crowded bed without seeming particularly disturbed by his departure and Xander stood over the bed watching her for a long moment. Her face was relaxed and untroubled as she slept. It was almost as if she had found complete peace for the first time in her repose and the sight of it brought a gentle smile to the Thunder God’s face. She was undeniably one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen as she lay there sleeping.
Turning away from the bed, Xander noticed that it was just past 4 am, meaning he’d only slept a little more than two hours. Thankfully, it seemed that was all his mind had needed to overcome the aftermath of the day’s emotional roller-coaster. Unfortunately, however, it was far too early for him to climb into the shower without potentially disturbing the other occupants of the house. Even his parents actually tended to sleep in on Sundays, relatively speaking anyway. With his first option unavailable to him, the Aesir opted for what he expected to be the next best alternative: he pulled on a pair of sweatpants and padded barefoot out of the house and into the yard.
The cool air of a pre-dawn September morning against a half-clothed body might have been uncomfortable for most people, but Xander barely felt it. After all, his body could comfortably endure the frigid rigors of space, why would a morning chill have any effect on him? Even as that thought crossed his mind, the Aesir realized that a cold shower wasn’t likely to do him much good either, all things considered, which meant that he’d need other ways to cope with sexual frustration. Pushing that fact aside, he focused on other things and began his morning workout, hoping that the exertion of it would help properly clear his mind.
He worked himself hard, even harder than he usually did. Clearly his exercises had been working thus far, as his control over his powers seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds, but after yesterday it was critical that he master his body as well as his abilities. Too much of the future he’d seen depended on the League and that thought scared him more than he cared to admit. So he pushed himself, straining against his physical limits with all of his rather considerable might. It felt good to not hold back. As he worked, he fell into an almost meditative state, feeling his mind expand and sharpen as he began to perceive things his conscious mind usually overlooked.
He began to feel, for lack of a better word, the ebb and flow of the electrical impulses that governed his muscles. He became acutely conscious of even the most miniscule atmospheric variations in the space around him: fractional degrees of temperature difference, minute movements of the air, and almost immeasurably tiny variations in moisture levels. Stretching outward with senses, he could feel the electricity flowing through the lines that supplied the farm’s power and was surprised as his divine awareness began to assemble a mental image of the weather for miles around him. He knew, with a certainty that mortal meteorologists couldn’t approximate with even the most advanced equipment, precisely what the weather was doing at this moment and exactly what it would do over the next few hours, if he didn’t alter it. It was a surprising feeling.
This was an aspect of his abilities that he’d never given much thought to, but that made perfect sense to him. After all, if you really wanted to control a thing, you had to be able to perceive it on some level. Until now, that level had been entirely unconscious, existing only just beneath his awareness, but now that he knew about it, he could focus and pick apart the details of how all of these factors affected the weather around him.
The Aesir lost himself in his exploration of these new senses and their limits, continuing to move through the motions of his exercises on a sort of auto-pilot, his muscle memory flowing through the movements without conscious thought. He closed his eyes and focused purely on the things that he could not perceive with mortal senses. It was a heady experience in its own way, proving once again that he was more than human in so many ways.
The sudden warmth of the sun beginning to clear the horizon and the massive effect it had on the atmosphere exploded across his awareness and brought his attention back to the physical world. He opened his eyes and smiled softly as he ceased his exercising. His entire body was covered in a thin sheen of sweat from his workout, a testament to exactly how hard he had worked himself. He felt energized, recharged in a way that sleep had never left him feeling, even when he was mortal.
As he glanced toward the window that looked in on the bed where his wife lay sleeping, a sudden burst of fear, anxiety and apprehension rushed over him. The sensation vanished as quickly as it came, leaving Xander frowning in its wake. Whatever it had been, it had definitely come from someone, or something, external. He could only hope that it wouldn’t mean more trouble so soon.
* * * * *
In the cool darkness of the rock strewn floor of the old Smallville foundry, something stirred as the sun crept up toward the horizon. At first the motions were small, almost unnoticeable inside the thick greenish gray cocoon the creature had created to protect itself, but within moments they were undeniable. Whatever was inside that hardened, Kryptonite-rich shell was ready to emerge. With a sudden crack, a chitinous, almost human arm thrust through the surface of the cocoon, followed a moment later by a second.
The emergent extremities struggled for a moment to find the grip and leverage they needed in order to accomplish their task, but quickly managed to wrench the chrysalis apart, revealing the being within. What had once been an average and unremarkable looking human teenager now resembled a monstrous amalgam of human and insect that could easily have sprung from H.R. Giger’s darkest fantasies. His skin was covered in a layer of extremely hard plates of chitin that were such a dark green color that they appeared almost black. The plates interlocked in an intricate pattern that left not a single unprotected soft-spot anywhere on his body and yet left him with a freedom of movement and flexibility that would leave even the best contortionists envious of him. The tips of his fingers ended in vicious looking talons and the backs of his hands sported a trio of wickedly sharp spikes that jutted forward between his knuckles and practically glistened with venom. Additional razor-like protrusions existed at his wrists, elbows, knees and shoulders giving the impression that his entire body was designed to be a lethal weapon.
A pair of heavily barbed and powerful mandibles turned his already inhuman looking face nightmarish with the help of his gleaming, multifaceted eyes. As he slowly stood up, two additional, entire insectile, appendages emerged from somewhere on his upper back. Each of the relatively short, highly articulated limbs ended in a blade-like stinger that could fold back at the final joint, allowing the potentially lethal weapon to be almost completely concealed against the leg itself. After a quick moment, the sting laden appendages folded across his shoulders and hugged along his torso, blending in against his exoskeleton and becoming almost indistinguishable from the rest of his body.
Greg Arkin looked down at the changes in his body and felt a distinct pleasure in what he’d become. Gone was the pathetic weakling that he had been, leaving in its place a being perfected by millions of years of evolution and empowered by the will of his God and Master. He was powerful, deadly, and unstoppable… and more importantly, he would be the first of many, the beginning of a race that would overrun humanity and claim this world as their own for the glory of the God that had spawned them.
Reaching out with his supernatural senses, he could feel the presence of human minds brushing against the edges of his awareness and could taste the psychic scents of each individual. It was how his species hunted, tracking their prey’s mental presence rather than their physical bodies. After all, physical senses could be confused and deceived, his psychic senses, however, existed beyond the realm of human understanding and few, if any, humans would have the ability to hide from them.
Greg froze abruptly, mid-thought, as his hunting sense brushed over a pair of distinctly non-human presences in relatively close proximity to one another. The minds smelled almost familiar to him, triggering millennia old instincts that caused him to recoil from them quickly. They stank of danger, of imprisonment and pain. They were like the ones who had forced his Master to abandon the Earth millions of years ago so that humanity could thrive here.
He growled, a low, thrumming sound of agitation that reverberated throughout the abandoned structure. The presence of such beings so close to where he had been reborn couldn’t be accidental. He’d have to proceed cautiously for now, at least until he could enslave a few worker-drones and turn a human woman into a Queen so that they could begin a proper colony-hive. The perpetuation of the species had to be his first priority now, no matter what else happened.
He looked down at his hand in disgust at what he would have to do. There was no way that the gleaming beauty of his true form could go unnoticed for any length of time. He would have to disguise himself as a human for the time being, an utterly distasteful thought. It seemed terribly wrong that despite his perfection as a predator, he would have to hide among his prey, yet it was a necessary evil for the moment. He watched as his hand seemed to waver, the chitin-armor that encased it rippled and crawled as it transformed. His beautiful, impervious exoskeleton shifted into squishy, pink flesh as his spines, talons and extra limbs melted away. Within a few moments, only a very naked teenaged boy remained.
Grimacing in disgust, Greg stared down at his human body and despised it. Wearing this form was strictly a batter of necessity, though, and he swore that he’d be rid of it, permanently, as soon as he could. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about the nudity until he managed to sneak to his former home and acquire some of his human clothing. Luckily, that destination wasn’t too far from the foundry, which greatly reduced his chances of getting caught walking around Smallville naked so early in the morning.
The thought of his home sent a pang of hunger through him. His metamorphosis had required a vast amount of energy and while he had managed to drain no small part of that energy from the alien crystals that littered the foundry, rendering them inert in the process, he would need to feed soon. Maybe, if he was very lucky, his mother would be home when he arrived. He was pretty sure that she’d be an adequate meal to sustain him for a few days. Once he’d eaten and dressed, he could begin to work on getting Lana alone.
She’d make a perfect Queen for their first colony-hive.
* * * * *
Willow smiled gently as she watched Xander and Chloe move closer together on the picnic blanket that the three of them were sharing. She always enjoyed watching the way her two best friends and lovers behaved when it was just the three of them and it was always a turn-on to watch the Aesir and the Olympian kissing in the warm California sunshine. Their day together had been simply perfect, a quiet picnic in the Sunnydale city park, uninterrupted by either demons or super-villains. She couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Abruptly the sky darkened and the ground beneath her shook viciously. The trees around them exploded into flame and she watched in utter horror as both Xander and Chloe turned to stone before her very eyes. She froze, completely paralyzed by fear, as the stone forms of her lovers exploded in a shower of dust and pebbles that pelted her terrified form.
“No!” she shouted the denial as her heart was torn apart by the scene and a deep, terrible laughter echoed throughout the inferno that the park had become. The redhead leapt to her feet and whirled to face the familiar sound.
Trigon’s massive form seemed to erupt from the ground on the other side of the flaming trees and the dark, smoky sky turned blood-red. Her father’s horrible grating voice echoed like his laughter as he spoke. “Your pitiful friends cannot help you, Raven. I cannot be stopped,” he announced clearly. “You cannot escape your destiny. This world will be mine and everything you love will die!”
The barest flick of the Titan’s hand caused the fires around her to surge toward her, engulfing her in the resulting conflagration.
Willow sat bolt upright, a half-uttered scream dying on her lips as she awoke. Her entire body was trembling in abject terror. Her heart was pounding and her breath came in ragged, fearful gasps. An instant later, Midori was there with her, passing through the wall that separated the Green Lantern’s room from the guest bedroom like a ghost to settle quickly on the bed alongside the sobbing redhead.
“It’s okay, Willow,” the tiny Japanese girl said softly, “It was just a dream…” The Green Lantern slipped a comforting arm around the scared girl’s shoulders, trying to soothe the nightmare induced panic.
‘Was it really just a dream, a nightmare?’ Willow wondered as she let herself be calmed by Midori’s words and touch. ‘Or was it something more?’
“It was my father, the Titan,” she whispered softly. “I watched him destroy Chloe and Xander before he tried to kill me.” She held her breath as she felt Midori tense slightly. Neither she nor Clark had been told much about Trigon yet, Willow realized abruptly. It just hadn’t seemed like something that Mr. and Mrs. Kent should find out and they’d pointedly avoided shop-talk after reaching Midori’s house last night, instead focusing on getting to know each other better.
“And I thought my last step-mother was an evil bitch,” Midori replied glibly, “at least all she tried to do was send me away to a boarding school.” She paused for a moment as some of Willow’s tension seemed to drain away. “You want to talk about it? You were a little vague on the whole ‘trapped in Azerath’ thing earlier when Xan and Clark’s parents were around.” When Willow hesitated for a moment, she rushed to continue, “I understand if you don’t. I mean, we’ve only known each other for a few hours really…so no pressure or anything.”
The redhead smiled gently at the Green Lantern, “It’s not that. I’m just not sure where to start.” She paused for a long moment before she began as she reached a decision. She told the other girl everything that had happened from her arrival in Azerath through the kiss she’d shared with Chloe that let them escape the hellish dimension. Somehow, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
“You know,” the tiny Asian girl said when Willow finished her story, “I can see why you didn’t want to go into all of that in front of Ma and Pa Kent, but we seriously need to track down your dad and kick his ass.”
Willow chuckled grimly, “I’m not sure that we could take him down, even with all of us working together. He conquers and destroys everything that he encounters.”
“Then we do our homework first and go in prepared,” the Green Lantern countered with a resolved smile. “The gods killed off all of the other Titans during the war. They’re bound to know how to take him out.”
“Maybe,” the redhead replied with a noncommittal shrug, “but we’re a long way from being ready to handle Trigon.”
“Yeah, but with all of us working together, we can beat him,” Midori said confidently, before changing the subject with a sly grin, “So you’ve got a crush on Chloe and you two kissed… how’d she respond to that?”
“She’s not sure how to take it, really,” Willow admitted. “I mean, I had the better part of four months in Azerath to come to terms with the idea that I had a crush on a girl. Even if she decides that she can’t feel that way about me, at least I tried this time, which is better than I can say about my other crush.”
The Japanese girl snorted indelicately, “First off, no one gets to ‘decide’ what they feel toward someone else. You either feel something or you don’t. You’re either attracted to someone or you’re not. The only choice you get is whether to act on what you feel or deny it.” She frowned for a moment, “Though I guess if you deny your feelings long enough you might convince yourself they don’t exist or aren’t real, but that’s probably not really healthy.”
“Probably not,” the Titan’s daughter agreed, “but maybe that was a bad choice of words on my part. She’s not sure whether what she feels toward me is just friendship or maybe something more. She’s confused… and if I finish that sentence I’m going to sound like one of my parents spouting psycho-babble.”
Midori laughed aloud at that. “I’m guessing your parents are shrinks then?” At the redhead’s nod, she grinned widely. “At least they probably won’t freak out too much when you tell them you aren’t straight. My wicked witch of an ex-step-mom nearly stroked out when I brought my first girlfriend home.”
Willow fixed her with an odd look for a moment, clearly reassessing her before she replied. “My parents are also Jewish, so shrinks or not, I doubt the day they figure out I’m bisexual will go over well.” She shrugged, “It probably won’t matter…it’ll take them years to notice even if I exclusively date women for the rest of my life, and then they’ll think it’s just a phase for a while too. By the time they realize that I’m seriously not strictly heterosexual, I’ll probably be out of college.”
“My dad and I had some long talks about the fact that I dated both boys and girls,” Midori admitted with a wince of sympathy. “At first he was convinced that I was only interested in girls to upset his wife at the time. It took a long time to convince him that I wasn’t attracted to boys or girls. I’m attracted to a person and their gender just isn’t really a factor in it.” Her pained expression seemed to fade as she talked. “Once I made him understand that, he was okay with it. I think that, deep down, he still hopes that I’ll find a nice boy to settle down with after college and raise fat, happy babies.”
“A boy like Clark, maybe?” the redhead asked with a raised eyebrow. “You and he seemed kinda cozy before the battle in LA…”
This time it was the Green Lantern’s turn to look uncertain, “I don’t know. I really like Clark, he’s a complete hottie, and I think we could be good together, but I’m not sure if it’ll work between us.”
“Why not?” Willow asked, seeming surprised by the revelation.
“I don’t know if he can handle being with someone like me,” she replied with a deepening frown. “I like to flirt and be playful and I’m affectionate with my friends, male and female. If he can’t accept me as I am without being jealous, then I won’t ever be more than friends with him, no matter how much I like him. He might be better off with someone less… free-spirited.”
The Titan’s daughter blinked several times, taking in the girl’s comment before responding. “You know, sometimes, I think that Aphrodite has a sick sense of humor. I mean, could she make things any more complicated for us in terms of who’s attracted to who?”
* * * * *
The sun had just completely cleared the horizon when Greg Arkin sprang up from the ground to a tree branch just outside of his bedroom window. Before his transformation, he’d often used the conveniently located branch and easy-to-climb tree to sneak in and out of the house undetected. Now it served as a good way to avoid a very public scene with his mother. He easily cleared the fifteen foot jump and wrenched open the locked window with a single pull. The window gave an obnoxiously loud squeal of protest as the metal latch bent and broke under the duress.
He slipped inside with a grin, knowing that the noise would have disturbed his mother, who was still sleeping in the room across from his. Sure enough, he was still naked and standing in front of his dresser a few moments later when the door to his room was flung open. He didn’t even have to glance at her to now that she was staring at him in dumbfounded shock. She was simply that predictable. He turned to her and let a predatory smile sip over his features.
“Hello mother,” he said coolly.
“Oh God, Greg,” she began in a relieved tone. “You’re okay! I was so worried. The sheriff found your car out on the road near the Cooper farm. I was afraid something had happened to you when you didn’t come home.”
“No,” he countered, sucking in a deep breath and tasting her fear and apprehension on the air. “You hoped something happened to me. It would have been less embarrassing then sending me away, wouldn’t it? After all, you were so worried that you were sleeping peacefully right up until I broke the window latch and woke you.”
He stalked angrily toward her and saw the fear flash in her eyes. “It must really hurt, realizing what a shitty parent you’ve been all these years. Raising a freak of a son… Hell, you couldn’t even keep dad around and happy could you? I mean, he did run off with the town slut before I was even born, right?” His voice was cold and malicious as he lashed out verbally at the woman who gave birth to him. “How does it feel to be such a complete failure as a wife and mother?”
The razor-sharp tone of his words spurred her anger and she raised her voice harshly, “How dare you?” Without a conscious thought, his mother’s hand lashed out, slapping him viciously across the face. “How dare you say such things to me?”
“Your son’s dead,” he spat back, grinning. “That weak-willed simpering fool died in that little car accident you stupid bitch. Only, he didn’t stay dead. I was reborn in his body and I’m not going to be putting up with your shit. You want to know why?” he asked mockingly, “Because I’m better than you could ever be, you ignorant cow.”
She froze as a bizarre shimmer rolled over the young man in front of her and her son’s visage was replaced with something straight out of a lunatic’s nightmares. A panicked shriek swelled in her throat only to be lost when the two stinger-tipped limbs that had lifted above his shoulders lashed out. The two blade-like stingers drove themselves into the fleshy areas in the pockets of her shoulders and quickly pumped paralytic venom into her body. The shock of pain and the burn of the poison raced through her body. Complete paralysis was almost instantaneous as the magickal venom did its work.
“Don’t worry mother,” he reassured her in the harsh guttural voice of the monster he’d become. The words were distorted by the alien configuration of his face and vocal chords, but understandable. “The venom won’t kill you,” he leaned in, snapping his sharp mandibles mere centimeters from her face. “In fact, it’ll keep you alive and awake as long as possible, making sure that you can’t move or cry out for help and that you feel every bite I take.”
He inhaled again deeply, savoring the scent of her fear and pain. He was going to thoroughly enjoy this.
* * * * *
“So you want to tell me what’s really bugging you, Clark?” Xander asked as he and Clark worked at loading the produce into the truck for the trip to the market. When the younger teen met the question with a startled frown, the Aesir continued, “You’re brooding, Clark. You have been since yesterday evening. So, please, quit being all emo and talk to me about what’s bothering you.”
“It’s nothing, Xan,” Clark argued in response. “You’ve got enough to worry about without me dumping anything else in your lap.”
The Thunder God let out an exasperated sigh on hearing his own excuse for not wanting to tell his adopted parents about his marriage to Athena turned back on him. “I asked, Clark,” he pointed out with a wry grin, “you’re not dumping. Now spill it. The faster you tell me what’s eating you, the quicker we can deal with it and you can stop acting like a poor tortured vampire with a soul who really annoys me.”
When Clark still didn’t respond right away, the deity rolled his eyes and exclaimed, “Come on already. We’re family, that’s what we’re here for, helping each other with problems. Is it something I did, is that why you don’t want to talk to me about it?”
“No!” the Kryptonian protested half-heartedly. “At least, not really…”
That drew the older boy up short. He fixed Clark with a frown as he considered the possibilities and abruptly settled on a single, obvious moment. “Is this because Midori kissed me?” he demanded incredulously. When Clark blushed in embarrassment, Xander took a deep breath. “Have you talked to Midori about it yet?”
“Yeah,” his brother replied, leaving it at that.
“And what did she say about it?” Xander prompted.
“That that’s just how she is. She enjoys flirting around and showing her friends that she cares about them,” Clark said with a sigh of his own. “She also said that if I couldn’t trust her to draw the line between flirting and being affectionate toward her friends and cheating, then we’ve got no business even trying to be more than friends.”
“Alright,” the Aesir replied with a nod. “So why the brooding?”
The younger boy shot him a disbelieving stare. “I really like her, that’s why,” he answered as though the problem should be obvious.
“Clark, why would that be a problem?” the Thunder God shot back. “You like her, she likes you. So give the relationship a try and see what happens. It’s not like you’re marrying the girl. You don’t even have to start of by dating each other exclusively, for crying out loud. Just take it a step at a time and see where it goes.”
His brother stared at him for a long moment before speaking again, “You’d do that in my place?”
“Sure,” Xander answered with a grin. “If I really liked the girl in question, and I knew she liked me, I’d go for it. At least if you try and it doesn’t work out, you won’t have to worry about how it might have gone.” His smiled broadened. “Besides, I think Midori would be good for you. You could use a little more fun in your life. Honestly Clark, what have you really got to lose?”