Chapter 49 – Metamorphosis IV
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…
-== Chapter Forty-Nine – Metamorphosis IV ==-
Clark half-suppressed a smile as he walked toward the large room where he heard Lex’s voice. It seemed clear from his tone that he was discussing something business related and was mildly irritated, but he intentionally ignored the specifics of what the man was saying. After all, Lex’s business dealings were none of his concern and eavesdropping was rude. He stepped through the door of the room just as Lex was hanging up his phone and was greeted with a broad smile.
“Clark,” the young man acknowledged in a pleased tone. “Making deliveries for your parents?”
“Yeah,” the dark-haired teen acknowledged. “Xander still hasn’t gotten his driver’s license yet, so I get most of the delivery work. Is everything okay? You sounded a little irritated…”
“Just dealing with a minor issue at the plant,” Lex said dismissively. “I’m glad you came up to talk, you and your friends seemed to take off pretty quickly at the market earlier.”
“Well, you know how it is,” Clark remarked with a grin, “on a farm like ours there’s always more work to be done then time to do it in.”
The bald man chuckled, “I also get the feeling that your friends don’t like me very much. Once you and Xander left, they couldn’t get away fast enough.”
The teen winced at that, “Uh, well, Pete’s family had some unpleasant dealings with your dad when he opened the LuthorCorp plant here… and I’m not really sure why Midori…”
“She didn’t tell you about what happened in Gotham City then?” Lex asked with a smug grin.
“Only about the fact that your father tried to buy out her dad’s company and Queen Industries beat him out,” Clark looked thoughtful as he spoke. “She never told me anything that would explain why she dislikes you personally.”
Lex nodded, his smile growing even smugger and now verging on a self-satisfied smirk. “I spent several months in Gotham City and was part of the acquisition bid. In fact, it was my idea. I just didn’t figure Queen Industries would step in and overbid the company’s value just to stop me.” He stood up and walked around his desk, gesturing for Clark to follow him into an adjoining room. “It was my mistake, I underestimated my opponents.”
The center of the new room was occupied by a large table that was laid out with a miniature medieval battlefield. “So it was just business? That’s why she doesn’t like you?” Clark asked as his eyes roved over the table and he realized that it was some sort of war-game.
“Not entirely, but that was certainly part of it,” came the man’s amused response. “The other part is… personal.”
“Personal?” the teen repeated curiously, wondering if Lex was going to explain or simply leave it at that.
“I stole her girlfriend,” the smug tone of the answer was utterly undeniable. “Mercy was eighteen and a beautiful girl. I didn’t find out she was dating Midori until afterwards, but the break-up between the girls wasn’t pleasant. Apparently, they’d been together for a while and Midori took being dumped badly.”
Lex had stolen Midori’s girlfriend. Midori had dated other women in Gotham City. The revelation shocked Clark completely. The girl he was trying to date also liked girls. How was he supposed to feel about that? It wasn’t that he necessarily had anything against women dating other women or men dating other men, at least not in the abstract, but what did that mean for him and Midori and their burgeoning relationship?
“You like her,” Lex said, surprise coloring his tone as he recognized the teen’s reaction. “And you didn’t know she’s bisexual.” The man shook his head in disbelief. “You certainly know how to pick them, Clark. From what Mercy told me, Midori’s quite a wild child. After she and Mercy broke up, Midori got quite a reputation as something of a party girl…”
“Why are you telling me all this?” the teen asked abruptly, his face impassive as he met Lex’s gaze.
“Because I’m your friend, Clark,” he replied easily. “And because you should know what it is you’re getting yourself into if you date Midori. I don’t mean to be patronizing, but you’re young and I don’t want to see you get hurt by this girl. Isn’t that what friends do? Try to protect one another?”
* * * * *
Chloe and Willow stood just outside of the hospital room currently occupied by Whitney Fordman, his mother, and Lana Lang. According to the nurse, Smallville’s star quarterback had yet to regain consciousness from the accident. Sometimes, head trauma was just like that. Of course, the nurse hadn’t actually told them that, since that sort of patient data was confidential, but that hadn’t prevented Chloe from plucking the information from the woman’s thoughts while she prattled on about hospital policies.
“Okay, Chloe,” Willow said softly as they stood largely unnoticed across the hall from the observation window that looked in on Whitney’s room. “He’s still unconscious, so now what?”
“We need to know if he saw anything, so I take a quick walk in his memories and see what he saw,” she answered with a frown. “If Xander’s right, this thing is dangerous and we can’t exactly wait on him to just wake up on his own.”
“I bumped into one of the doctor’s while you were talking to the nurse and he was afraid for Whitney, in a really pitying sort of way. I’m thinking there’s a chance he might not wake up at all…” the redhead said softly, only to see that her friend’s eyes had already slipped closed.
Chloe heard Willow’s words as she reached out with her abilities and spared a moment to sift through the surface thoughts of Whitney’s mother to learn more about the boy’s condition. Sure enough, he’d struck his head against something in the accident and the longer he remained unconscious, the greater the risk that he’d slip into a coma from which he might never wake up. Even more determined now, Chloe dove into Whitney’s unconscious mind without hesitating. Sure, the quarterback was arrogant jerk, but he didn’t deserve this and if she could find who did this to him, she would do her best to make them pay. With a twist of her powers, Chloe let the boy’s memories of the moments leading up to the accident play through her mind like a video clip. If he knew anything at all about what caused the accident, she’d see it.
She opened her eyes and withdrew from the football player’s mind with a sigh a few moments later. “There’s nothing there,” she told Willow quietly, sounding as disappointed as she felt.
“His mind isn’t there?” the girl asked, sounding shocked and disturbed by the possibility. “You mean he’s brain-dead?”
“No more than he was before the accident,” Chloe countered with a sarcastic smirk as she turned to walk away from the hospital room. “The last thing he remembers is arguing with Lana before he left the market. The blow to his head must’ve scrambled his memories leading up to the accident.”
“Oh,” Willow said, seeming slightly embarrassed to have jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“Chloe?” a familiar female voice called from near the door of the hospital room and the blonde stiffened before stopping and turning to face the source of the voice.
“Hey, Lana,” she greeted, the sympathy in her voice genuine. “How are you holding up?” She and Lana weren’t friends, not by a long shot, and didn’t move in the same social circles, but she could at least act like a concerned classmate, since that’s exactly what she was.
“I’ll be alright,” Lana half-lied in response. “Were you here to see Whitney?”
Chloe grimaced, realizing that she was about to say something that would probably seem cold and callous in the best of cases. “I heard about the accident and thought that there might be a story in it. I didn’t really know how bad the accident was until I got here. Did someone run him off the road or something?”
Lana’s face tightened and her expression went a little cold, confirming Chloe’s thoughts about appearing callous. “We don’t know what happened. The sheriff couldn’t find an obvious cause of the accident and there weren’t any witnesses. Whitney’s the only one who might know what happened.”
“I’m sorry, Lana,” she replied sincerely. “I really hope that he pulls through okay.”
The dark-haired girl nodded sharply before turning away and walking back into Whitney’s hospital room without another word.
“That wasn’t awkward at all,” Willow muttered under her breath as they resumed their walk back to Chloe’s car so they could head back to the farm.
* * * * *
Greg moved cautiously across the open spaces between the edge of the Kent’s property and the few buildings the farm boasted. His destination was the barn, since he remembered it being where he, Clark and Pete had hung out more often than not until he and the other boys drifted apart in junior high. Judging from the fact that he could sense the little Asian girl he’d seen with Clark and Xander earlier up in the barn’s loft, it seemed like a good place to try for an ambush.
His plan was simple and yet elegant, at least as far as he was concerned. Since normal humans couldn’t exactly pose a particular threat to him, he would first focus on removing the Kent brothers and their friends. He’s seen Clark leave in the family pick-up a short while ago and had felt the other three non-human minds depart as well, leaving only Xander, his parents and the girl on the farm. He would take Xander by surprise and then kill the humans. Then he could simply lie in wait for either Clark or the others to return, picking them off one by one. Once the only real threats to his plans were removed, he could just take Lana and no one would be able to stop him.
He slipped unnoticed into the gloom of the barn and climbed, spider-like, into the rafters. Since surprising his prey was critical to his success, his carapace began to change. It altered its coloration to perfectly match his surroundings with a degree of magically enhanced precision that rendered him virtually invisible to normal vision. As silent as death itself, he slipped into position to wait for his real prey. Even now, he could feel Xander approaching the barn. Of course, the girl’s presence complicated things slightly. If she managed to scream or otherwise warn the remaining human members of the Kent family, they, in turn, might be able to warn Clark and the other non-humans.
It was simply too dangerous to risk having to face three to odds against potentially challenging adversaries. He would have to try and take out both Xander and the girl before he lost the element of surprise. It would be tricky, but he was patient, he could wait as long as it took.
* * * * *
Xander was feeling a little melancholy as he strolled into the barn and mounted the steps to the loft. Athena had returned to Olympus to retrieve a number of things she would require in order to live comfortably here on Earth without almost daily trips back to her home, and he found himself saddened by her absence. It surprised him to realize that he was already growing accustomed to her presence in his life and in his heart. Logically, he knew that some part of that probably resulted from the magical bond their marriage had created, but that didn’t make the feeling any less real to him. Unfortunately, he would simply have to get used to being apart from her like this, since it was an unavoidable fact of the situation.
His thoughts were abruptly derailed as he topped the stairs to find Midori staring intently through the eyepiece of Clark’s telescope, despite the fact that it was only barely mid-afternoon. “Midori!” he exclaimed, surprised by the girl’s unexpected presence. “I thought you were going with Clark…”
She didn’t raise her head as she answered, remaining focused on whatever it was she was staring at. “I missed him,” the tiny Japanese girl answered. “Your dad sent him out to make a few deliveries. He suggested I wait up here, but I think he just wanted me out of his way. Do you know whose house that is across the way?” She gestured vaguely out the window.
“Uh… Lana’s I think,” Xander replied with a frown. “Why?”
“I was just wondering who it was you guys were spying on with the telescope,” she answered matter-of-factly before looking up and giving Xander a wicked smile. “Does Athena know you’re into voyeurism?”
“Say what?” he asked, taken aback by the forwardness of the question and trying to process what the girl was telling him. “I’m not into voyeurism,” he protested before the memory of his fantasy of watching Athena and Nike flickered across his awareness, “much… What makes you think anyone’s using the telescope to spy on Lana anyway?”
“Mostly the fact that the telescope was aimed at that house when I peeked through it,” Midori answered.
“It was?” he didn’t have to feign surprise at the revelation. If Clark was watching Lana with his telescope… well it was kinda crappy and stalker-esque, but it might explain his fascination with the girl. Of course, explaining that to Midori probably wouldn’t do his brother any favors.
“Wait… is Lana the cheerleader that Clark had a crush on? The one that’s dating the quarterback he rescued earlier?” she asked quickly.
“Uh… well, yeah,” Xander answered with a wince, bracing for the worst.
“Hmmm… I wonder if one of those upper windows is her bedroom?” she peered through the telescope again, adjusting it slightly.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he admitted. “And why aren’t you upset about this? I mean, it is kind of creepy… isn’t it?”
“Unless I seriously misread him, Clark’s way too much of a nice guy to try and catch a glimpse of her naked. He strikes me more as the ‘emo and torturing himself over what he can’t have’ sort actually.” She smiled brazenly. “Tell me I’m wrong…”
“No, that’s pretty much Clark in a nutshell,” he agreed with a half-frown. “Until a few days ago he was convinced that he really liked Lana, even though he barely knows her and he brooded about it constantly.”
“So what changed?” she asked.
“I talked to him about it, Aphrodite talked to him about it, and then he met you,” Xander chuckled softly. “Which is why he was brooding about you this morning instead, but you two seem to have worked that out earlier.”
The girl shrugged noncommittally. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Xander, I like your brother a lot and I want things to work between me and him, but a part of me thinks that dating Clark might be a huge mistake. We’re from entirely different worlds… and not just literally,” she quickly amended. “He’s this sweet, innocent, inexperienced farm-boy and… I’m none of those things. I mean forget boys; I’ve kissed more girls than he has.”
Xander gave her an odd look as re-evaluated the situation in light of this new information about Midori, “So that wasn’t my imagination. You really were flirting with Chloe the other night!” His obvious grin and amused tone made the lack of recrimination in his words readily apparent to even the most oblivious observer.
“I was flirting with all three of you,” she corrected with a sly grin. “Clark was the only one who seemed interested though. You were too hung up on Chloe and she was too fixated on you and Clark for either of you to notice.” Her grin faded abruptly, along with some of her bravado, revealing an unexpected anxiety about his reaction. “You’re not, you know, secretly freaked out by the fact that I also like girls and planning to start avoiding me like I had the plague or something, are you? Because if you are, I’d rather you just came out and told me straight up so that I know where I stand…”
His amused grin faded into a more somber expression at her words. It seemed obvious that she was pretty accustomed to being a social leper because of her sexual preferences, even to Xander. “It would be pretty hypocritical of me to treat you any differently because of this, considering that my wife has a girlfriend that she’s been sleeping with since before humankind discovered how to make fire.” He smiled reassuringly. “I will confess to being curious though,” he admitted before realizing that could be taken wrong, “Not that I’m asking you to share intimate details of your sex life or anything… unless you want to… I mean about more general things… like how you figured out you liked women too and stuff. I mean, my only ideas of what a relationship between two women might be like probably bear more resemblance to bad porn than real life.”
She raised an eyebrow and stared at him in surprise, “Your wife… has a girlfriend?” she repeated, clearly having not really heard anything he said past that point. “And you said ‘has’ as in the present tense not ‘had’… meaning she still… and you’re okay with that?”
This time it was Xander’s turn to shrug off-handedly. “Nike has been Athena’s favored consort since the end of the war against the Titans. They love each other, who am I to stand in the way of that? Besides, apparently the Olympians, and possibly the Aesir too, but I’m still sort of fuzzy on that point, don’t really do monogamy, even in marriage.”
Her shocked look didn’t waver at all. “So you’re perfectly okay with Athena having sex with other people?” She shook her head and looked at him with a new respect in her eyes when he nodded. “Wow. It really doesn’t bother you?”
He smiled slightly. “I don’t know, maybe it’s got something to do with the bond between us, but I care about Athena and I want her to be happy. If that’s what makes her happy, then how can I get upset about it? Besides, it’s not like it’s a one way street. She wants me to get involved with other people too. She even invited me to join her and Nike sometime…”
She blinked at him repeatedly as what he was saying sank in. “Wow,” she reiterated her amazement. “A completely open relationship without jealousy or resentment… I always figured those were fairy tales. I hope you guys can really make it work.” She paused for a moment before grinning wickedly as her thoughts took a new turn. “So are you going to take her up on her invitation? I mean a three-way with a pair of Goddesses who have thousands of years of experience sounds pretty mind-blowing.”
“Probably not anytime soon,” he countered with an embarrassed flush. “I mean… it’s practically every guy’s fantasy come true, sure… but they’ve been together for so long and I’m still getting to know Athena, let alone Nike… Don’t you think it would be kind of, well, intimidating…”
Understanding flickered across Midori’s face and her mouth dropped open. “Athena was your first time?” she asked sounding shocked once more.
“Uh, well… yeah,” he admitted, not bothering to hide his continued embarrassment at the shift in conversation. “I honestly never really even dated before and now I’m married… and I think I might be falling in love with her, which is great except that I haven’t got a clue how to make her happy.”
“You seem to be off to a pretty good start though,” Midori pointed out with a smile, “You know, assuming that what happened between you and her in the kitchen is any indication. You two don’t act like a couple who just met or just started dating… at all.”
“That’s good though, right?” he asked uncertainly.
She winced as she responded, “I’m probably not the best person to ask for relationship advice, Xan. My track record with members of either sex is less than stellar when it comes to long term relationships.”
“At least you have a track record,” he pointed out quickly, “which is more than any of the rest of our little circle of friends can say… The only other people that I can talk to about this are my mom and dad and I doubt the news that my wife has a girlfriend in a very present tense sense will go over real well with them.” He took in the pained expression on the girl’s face and stopped abruptly. “Oh God, I’m such an ass. I’m sorry Midori, I didn’t mean to push… if you don’t want to talk to me about this, it’s no big deal.”
“No, it’s okay,” she countered, giving him a reassuring smile. “It’s just that I’ve only ever had one real, serious relationship and it ended very badly… that’s all.”
“What happened?” he asked softly, his curiosity warring with his sympathy for her obvious pain.
“She left me for someone else,” the girl answered with a frown at the memory. “I thought that what Mercy and I had together would last forever. I really loved her and thought that she loved me too. In the end, I was wrong on both counts.” She sighed bitterly. “Our forever lasted about nine months, until billionaire bad-boy Lex Luthor blew into Gotham to help his daddy acquire my father’s software company. He swept Mercy off her feet and into his bed, behind my back.”
Xander’s jaw dropped at the revelation, but before he could say anything, Midori continued her story.
“We broke up when I caught Lex in bed with her. I still think they set it up on purpose so that I would catch them in the act,” she hesitated for a moment, as though she were teetering on the edge of some invisible precipice. “The break-up was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. We both ended up saying and doing things just to hurt one another. Afterward, I did a lot of things that I’m not particularly proud of, but at the time I was just so desperate to feel something other than heartache that nothing else mattered.”
“I was lucky, though,” she went on to say. “I had a group of really good friends that helped pull me back before I went too far into that really dark place I was headed toward.” She looked up and met his gaze, ignoring the sympathy she saw there. “So just trust me when I say that you don’t my advice on how to make things work between you and Athena.” She turned back to the window, staring out, unseeing, into the distance.
“I’m sorry that she hurt you so much, Midori,” he offered quietly, moving to the window where she stood, “but…” His next words were cut off by a powerful sensation of being watched by something alien and hostile that made his skin crawl. He saw Midori tense up, spinning around and snapping her attention upward, toward the ceiling above and just behind them, and felt a sudden jolt of adrenaline.
“Xander! Incoming!” she shouted, throwing herself to the side as her ring engulfed her in its protective shield.
The Thunder God exploded into motion, whirling and meeting his attacker in the space of a single heartbeat. He swung hard and his fist connected solidly with the demonic looking bug-monster’s chest, sending it flying away toward the far end of the barn. The blow left his hand stinging from the force of the hit, a fact that left Xander a little worried. The creature smashed into the ground at the far end of the barn, digging up a furrow of dirt without significantly damaging the structure.
“Are you alright, Midori?” he asked quickly, turning to check on the girl.
“I’m fine, but what the hell was that thing?” she asked, getting cautiously to her feet.
“Some kind of demon I think,” Xander answered tightly, glancing back toward where the creature had landed to see that it was gone. “Damn, where’d it go?”
A sudden blur of motion rocked the Aesir back on his heels as the beast, having now turned a sickly yellow color, landed in front of him and lashed out with a taloned hand. He managed to avoid the blow by a hair’s breadth and slid out of the path of the next attack by an equally small margin. Whatever it was, his attacker had more than a little skill and the ferocity of his assault put Xander at an immediate disadvantage. A sudden, well-placed kick clipped the already off-balance deity and sent him sprawling to the wooden floor even as the spiny protrusions along the monster’s carapace ripped through his clothes and left a burning pain in their wake.
He rolled quickly away, giving himself room to move and found his feet. The creature had drawn blood, and the lingering pain made it clear that this… thing was dangerous, even to him. “Midori, get out of here!” he shouted as the demon rounded on the girl.
There was a sudden, brilliant flash of emerald light as the Green Lantern lashed out at the monster with her ring even as it stabbed at her with a blade-tipped appendage that vaguely resembled a scorpion’s tail. For just a moment, Xander lost sight of what was happening as everything was washed out in flare of bright green light, but when his vision returned, his heart clenched. Midori had crumpled silently to the floor and the creature had been utterly unaffected by her attack.
The sight of the girl lying there, motionless, burned itself into Xander’s mind and filled him with a white-hot rage. His own wound was forgotten as Mjolnir appeared in his hand and the rest of the world seemed to vanish. A half-formed thought activated his armor as the Warrior God settled into a fighting stance and waited for his enemy to make his next move.
Before his very eyes, he watched as the insectile demon’s carapace changed colors, its sickly yellow color shifting back to its original blackish-green as the creature moved warily toward him. The Aesir’s eyes narrowed slightly as a second blade-like stinger lifted up over its other shoulder. No words, no taunts or mockery broke the intensity of their mutual focus as the two adversaries looked for an opening. The moment stretched on for a grim eternity as the pair circled on another cautiously until, finally, the battle was joined.
* * * * *
Greg tensed in anticipation as Xander moved closer to the girl he’d called Midori. His patience had paid off and neither his prey nor the human had noticed him so far. He adjusted his position ever so slightly and dropped down on Xander like the hand of an avenging god. To his great surprise both of his would-be victims tensed in the split-second before he attacked and the girl shouted a warning to Xander even as her clothing abruptly changed and a green forcefield erupted around her. He struck out at her with one of his stingers and felt the diamond hard tip skitter off the girl’s green, protective aura.
In that same instant he felt Xander’s fist slam into his chest with incredible force, sending him flying away from his prey to smash heavily into the floor of the barn. It didn’t hurt, seeing as his armored carapace had absorbed the blow completely, but it did surprise him. It surprised him almost as much as the realization that the girl wasn’t as normal as her psychic presence seemed to indicate she should be. Luckily, other members of his race had encountered people like her before and the vast, supernatural racial memory his species possessed provided him the solution to her abilities. He rolled to his feet even as the pigments that gave his form its dark green, almost black, sheen shifted to a sickly yellow hue.
He sprang into motion again, launching himself through the air in a ferocious assault on Xander. Any hopes he’d entertained of being able to remain here and eliminate the others were discarded now, as he could feel other presences approaching, but he had no intentions of leaving without at least incapacitating these two. He lashed out at the young man, raining down a vicious flurry of blows on his scrambling defenses. The sheer, brutal speed of the assault caught his foe off-guard and he landed a kick against Xander’s flack and knocked him away from the girl. The sharp metal tang of blood assailed him and Greg knew that he’d bloodied his opponent with that kick.
He whirled on the girl even as he heard Xander shout for her to get out. Instead of heeding his rather wise advice, the girl blasted him with a solid construct of green light even as he struck out at her with his stinger once more. The energy splashed over him harmlessly, utterly incapable of affecting his now yellow carapace even as his equally yellow stinger slid effortlessly through her defenses to pierce her flesh. It was only the fact that she threw herself backward and to the side that saved her life. Instead of hitting her in the chest, near her heart, the stinger tore into her bicep like a knife, injecting its poison and withdrawing.
She dropped to the floor with a satisfying thump. She was bleeding from the wound in her arm, though not particularly seriously. It didn’t really matter, however. She was finished; it was only a matter of time.
Greg turned back toward Xander and found himself face to face with the man who’d called himself Thor. The massive hammer in the man’s hand looked dangerous, but not as dangerous as the glint of pure rage in his eyes. He circled the man warily and noticed that he was favoring his side ever so slightly, a fact that made him want to smile. The transformation which had turned Xander into the giant of a man standing before him hadn’t healed his wound, which meant he was still vulnerable.
Believing he’d found the advantage he needed, Greg attacked with demonic fury. He slashed out with talons, struck with his stingers, threw punches and kicks, and took advantage of every blade-like spine and protrusion on his carapace, all to no avail. Every attack met the enchanted metal of the man’s gloves, bracers, and hammer or tore into the softer leather parts of his armor but never deeply enough to pierce flesh with a stinger or venomous spine.
Abruptly, the hammer’s massive head slipped through Greg’s attempts to deflect and crashed into his chest like Xander’s fist had earlier. Pain exploded across his awareness, driving breath from his lungs as his body was hurled backward like it had been shot from a cannon. He smashed through the thin, wooden outer wall of the barn, putting a man-sized hole above the window where the telescope stood. He sailed out past the Kent’s windmill to crash into the ground like a falling meteor.
His eyes widened in fear, raw uncontrollable fear, as he saw that Thor had leapt after him and was coming down from above with his hammer raised to deliver a deathblow. He threw himself aside, rolling out of the blow’s path in the nick of time as the weapon smashed with ground shaking force into where’d he’d lain mere moments before. Regaining his feet as the man tore his hammer out of the hole it had created, Greg realized that his chest still hurt badly. A quick glance down revealed that the hammer’s blow had cracked his carapace and left thick, black ichor oozing from the wounds.
A moment later the battle resumed with even greater ferocity. No longer was Greg fighting to try and eliminate a potential threat. This being had succeeded in actually injuring him, making it a matter of survival. He had to find a way to incapacitate his foe so that he could escape. His own continued existence was inconsequential, but if he died before turning Lana and impregnating her, his entire species perished with him. That could not be permitted, not again.
Pouring himself into his offensive, Greg felt a deep satisfaction as numerous shallow cuts and scrapes began to appear beneath the tattered and torn leather of Thor’s armor. His satisfaction vanished as a glancing hit from the hammer crushed the carapace around his right forearm and pain shot through him again. Turning aside, he lashed out with a stinger and felt a shock of surprise as it sand into the flesh of the man’s left flank. His thrill of impending victory was short-lived, however, as the axe-like reverse edge of the hammer abruptly struck the relatively fragile limb the stinger was attached to and severed it at the midpoint.
He staggered backward away from the damnable hammer with an insectile screech of fear and pain. Whoever or whatever this Thor creature was, he was doing something that should have been impossible. Nothing short of a God should have been able to resist the paralytic venom currently coursing through his veins and yet he was still moving.
It was time to get the hell away from this guy.
* * * * *
Xander gritted his teeth and grabbed the protruding end of the partial limb that was still attached to the blade-like stinger that was jammed into his side. He could feel the venom that it was still pumping into his system burning in his veins and knew that he was in trouble. The wounds that the creature had dealt him weren’t healing and pulling out that stinger was probably a really bad idea. It would cause him to bleed a lot. But if he left it in there, the damned thing would keep pumping poison into him and that seemed a lot worse at the moment.
With a sharp tug, he yanked the stinger free, thanking Odin that it hadn’t been barbed to do even more damage. The pain was excruciating, like nothing he’d ever felt before. The burning agony did serve, however, to clear his head and push the effects of the toxin back, so it wasn’t all bad, just mostly.
His eyes never left his attacker and the image of Midori crumpled on the loft floor still blazed in his mind, fueling his divine wrath even as the poison struggled to sap his strength. With a stubborn determination that would have done Thor himself proud, Xander cast aside the stinger and took a step toward the demon, hefting Mjolnir for another attack.
“What the hell are you?” the insectile monster rasped in its harsh voice as it struggled to scramble away from him.
Recognition exploded in the Thunder God’s brain as the distorted voice and panicked movement allowed him to make a connection he would otherwise have missed. He’d heard this self-same individual say exactly those same words just two days ago, when the creature had still been a human teenager. The brief moment of hesitation spawned by the realization cost the deity dearly as yet more of his fading strength slipped away. He moved but pain and the effects of the poison slowed him down too much and his attack missed the creature that Greg Arkin had somehow become.
The wounded demon fled, running blindly back toward the barn and away from Xander, who staggered slightly in his wake. Clenching his jaw tightly, Xander forced himself to follow after Greg, despite growing more tired and sluggish with each step. Distantly, he realized that he could hear his mom and dad’s voices and the sounds of a running vehicle, but he couldn’t pay attention to that now. The monster was escaping and he couldn’t let it get away. He had to stop it before it could hurt anyone else.
A sharp jolt of pain ripped through his side, where the stinger had stabbed him, as he stumbled and nearly fell. Even as he glanced down at the injury, he forced himself to keep moving. Surprisingly, there was less blood then he’d expected. Maybe he wouldn’t bleed out before the poison killed him…
Each step he took came slower than the last as his muscles seemed to gradually shut down. Xander knew then that he’d lost. He was sure that he was dying and Greg would get away. He stumbled again, smashing through the split rail fence that separated the field from the driveway as if it were nothing at all. He fell heavily to one knee and dropped his hammer with a thump. The monster was nowhere to be seen. He’d failed.
The world tilted oddly and he sprawled over to one side as his balance fled in the face of the advancing effects of the poison. His vision swam and his entire body throbbed as every tiny would he’d suffered flared with burning pain. Abruptly he felt himself being pulled at and Chloe and Willow’s faces came into view, framed by the angry clouds that had gathered overhead. He could see their lips moving, but couldn’t hear the words of the rushing sound of blood in his ears. Oh god, they didn’t know about Midori or who had done this!
Gathering his will, he forced the muscles of his jaw and throat to work, making himself speak despite his body’s distinct reluctance to obey his brain. “Midori… in the loft,” he gasped out, his mortal voice sounding hollow and muffled to his ears. “Greg… Arkin is monster.”
Beyond that nothing would respond. He couldn’t even close his eyes. His entire body ached as if every individual pain was being amplified a thousand-fold by the poison flowing in his veins. He felt the drum-like pounding of his heart in his chest begin to slow and waited for it to stop.
But it never did.
‘I think I should be dead,’ he thought, shocked as he heard the muffled sounds of another vehicle pulling up. ‘I’ve been poisoned… why am I still alive?’