Chapter 1 – Arrival
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize, 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: Thanks again to everyone that read and reviewed my first crossover story, An Echo of Thunder. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as you did the first, if not more.
-== Chapter One – Arrival ==-
Xander squinted as he stepped off the Greyhound bus into the overly bright sun of a beautiful July morning in central Kansas. He could tell the difference between the heat in Sunnydale and the heat in Smallville almost instantly. The air here was much drier and less humid than Sunnydale had been… which was not particularly surprising given the lack of a nearby ocean. Of course, that also meant no cool ocean breezes either.
The young Aesir stepped away from the bus and stretched mightily. The trip from Sunnydale to Smallville had taken the better part of three solid days spent on buses. The long trip had at least afforded Xander plenty of time to practice controlling the weather and to plan what to do when he reached Smallville. Three days of being cooped up on buses certainly hadn’t been good for much else.
Unfortunately, the planning hadn’t really gotten him anywhere. He’d flatly refused to allow Wolfram and Hart to attempt to contact the Kents on his behalf after Giles had filled him in on the firm’s reputation. He may have still been a homeless orphan, but at least he’d been able to shield his Aunt and Uncle from a bunch of soulless, evil lawyers. The problem was that thanks to an unlisted phone number and address, he had no idea where the Kent Farm actually was or how to get in touch with them.
So far he’d come up with two possible ways to proceed. He could either walk to town, hoping that since it was such a small town someone would be willing and able to point him in the right direction, or he could get in touch with the local sheriff and hope they would help. After having seen the quality of Sunnydale’s finest, he wasn’t quite ready to bank on the Smallville sheriff’s office being much help, which really only left him with blind luck as an alternative.
At least he’d had better luck with limiting his influence on the weather, something he’d been having serious trouble with during his emotionally charged final weeks in Sunnydale. Thanks to a couple of books Giles had given him on the uses of mental shields in magic, he’d managed to finally rein in the power of his subconscious mind. This meant that the strange mixture of melancholy, grief, and anxiety he was feeling no longer spilled over into non-stop rain and thunderstorms.
“Well, I’d say I’m not in Kansas anymore,” he quipped with a smile as he stepped over to where they were unloading luggage from the bus’s cargo hold, “but I guess I really am.”
Hearing a couple of his fellow passengers chuckle politely at his comment made Xander feel a little better. The fact that he could still make other people laugh after everything he’d been through recently was nothing less than miraculous to his mind. Finding his over-sized hiking backpack among the bags, he easily hefted the heavy bag up onto one shoulder. Too easily apparently, as the move drew an odd stare from the gentleman who had pulled it out of the bus.
“I…uh, work out… a lot,” Xander explained lamely, realizing suddenly that no normal teenage boy with his build should be able to easily handle that much weight. The excuse sounded pathetic, even to him, but the man let it pass without comment.
Xander looked around for a long moment, contemplating his next move. He figured that he had the best chance of getting some help finding the Kents if he headed downtown, but unfortunately the Smallville bus depot didn’t seem to actually be in the town. There was literally nothing but farms and cornfields as far as the eye could see. There was a four-way intersection just past the bus station, but there were no signs to indicate which road might lead toward the town itself.
With a sigh, the teen turned and walked into the depot building. The station was almost completely empty, except for a young man staring at the contents of a few ancient looking vending machines and an older woman who was reading what appeared to be a trashy romance novel behind the ticket counter. Stepping up to the counter, Xander plastered a wide grin on his face, before asking, “Uh, excuse me?”
Startled, the woman looked up from her book. “Oh, I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t hear you come in… Can I help you?” she said in a friendly tone, a smile seeming permanently etched on her face.
“Uh, yeah, actually I was hoping you could point me in the direction of town?” he asked, somewhat embarrassed by his ignorance.
“Sure thing, sweetie,” she said pointing toward the crossroads just past the station. “Go up to the intersection here and take a right, the town’s about 5 or 6 miles up, go left at the first stop sign and you’ll be on Main Street heading into downtown.”
“Thanks, ma’am,” he replied, still grinning, “at least it’s a nice day for a walk.”
* * * * *
The walk to town wasn’t actually as bad as Xander had worried it would be, given the distinct lack of scenery along the way. Though it wasn’t his first visit to the Kents’ rural hometown, he actually remembered very little of his last, and only, visit. Despite his Aesir ability to remember the majority of his life with perfect accuracy, the time he’d spent in Smallville was among the notable exceptions. There were a few other gaps and holes in his memory, most were small, almost inconsequential. Like the time he’d gotten hit in the head with a baseball while playing with Jesse or the time when he’d been delirious with a fever for a couple of days thanks to a severe bout of the chicken pox.
He was missing an entire month of his life around the Smallville trip, however. The week leading up to it, the entire two week visit, and the week he’d spent in the hospital afterward were nothing but vague images and spotty recollections. All he knew for certain was that the day his parents had arrived in Smallville to pick him up from the farm, he’d gotten hurt, badly. It had been the single worst injury he’d ever had, landing him in a coma for a few days. He’d been exceedingly lucky that there hadn’t been any permanent damage.
Unfortunately, whatever had happened in the aftermath of his injury had effectively destroyed the relationship between his Aunt and Uncle and his Mom and Dad. They stopped talking and Xander never got to come and visit again. If it hadn’t been for his mother’s insistence that the Kents were good people, he probably would never have even considered the possibility of seeing them again.
As it was, he didn’t really know much about the Kents. He knew that they had a son, Clark, who was a year younger than him and that they had a farm that had been in the Kent family for generations. Beyond that, he had vague recollections of having enjoyed his time on the farm, of having felt loved and like he’d been a part of a real family. He could only hope that those feelings weren’t a product of his overactive imagination as a child.
Smallville certainly managed to live up to its name as the teen finally reached the heart of the town. A single street held the sum of the Smallville’s downtown offerings. Prominent among them was a closed-down movie theater named the Talon and a small, somewhat trendy-looking coffee shop called the Beanery. The remaining businesses were an eclectic array of small shops and stores, a bank, and a somewhat larger establishment that proclaimed itself Fordman’s Hardware. The street didn’t seem any busier, or any emptier for that matter, than downtown Sunnydale usually seemed to be. Of course, Sunnydale had a couple more streets worth of downtown, even without considering the more industrial areas. Smallville did not.
Xander stood for several long moments, considering his options for where to start looking for help finding the Kents. Finally, his stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten yet today. With a small smile, he stepped into the Beanery, the only place on Main Street that seemed like it might serve food. A quick glance around revealed that the place seemed to be the favored hang-out for the high-school crowd. The shop was about the same size as the Espresso Pump, a fact which surprised him somewhat considering that he had expected it to be smaller. Then again, he’d been surprised to realize that Smallville actually boasted a few thousand more residents than Sunnydale had.
The teen slid his bag under a table and took a seat when he noticed a waitress circulating among the few occupied tables. She approached the table with a cheerful smile, her small nametag declaring her name to be Zoe. “Welcome to the Beanery,” she said happily, “what can I get for ya?”
“Uh, let me get a large mocha and a blueberry muffin,” he said with a polite smile, “and I don’t suppose you might know where the Kent Farm is?”
“Kent Farm?” she asked, “I don’t think so… but I can ask the manager, she might be able to help.”
“Thanks,” he replied, a genuine grin spreading over his features. Maybe his hare-brained scheme to find his Aunt and Uncle himself would work out okay after all. As the waitress walked off, he leaned back slightly in his seat and relaxed. He was actually thankful that he’d missed his connecting bus in Metropolis the night before. It had afforded him an opportunity to get a decent night’s sleep in an actual bed and get cleaned up in a cheap hotel room, so at least he didn’t look like he’d been on a bus for three days.
“I might be able to help you find the Kents,” another female voice said from behind him a moment later, “if you don’t mind me asking why you’re looking for them.”
The voice reminded him slightly of Willow and he quickly turned around to face the new person. The girl he found standing there was about his age, give or take a year, and probably a little shorter than his bestest bud. Beyond that, the similarities quickly disappeared. This girl was blonde-haired, blue-eyed, trendily dressed, and far more outgoing than his long time best friend. And she was kind of hot too.
“Uh, well, that’s a fair question, I guess…” he answered with a smile, “The short answer would be that they’re family. The long answer, and it’s a really long answer, is a bit too personal to share without some introductions at least. I’m Xander Harris, Martha Kent is my aunt.”
“I’m Chloe Sullivan… so Clark is your cousin then?” she asked suddenly seeming somewhat excited. “How come he’s never mentioned you?”
“You know Clark?” he asked, a little more surprised by the fact than he probably should have been, “Wait… How do you know Clark? Don’t tell me you’re dating him?”
“Clark dating me?” she replied with a chuckle. “That would require him to notice that girls other than Lana Lang exist. He and I are just good friends and have been since I moved here from Metropolis a couple years ago.”
“Well then, Chloe,” Xander said with a grin. “Any friend of Clark’s… is bound to know more about Smallville than I do. How about you have a seat and let me buy you a cup of coffee or something? Then you can interrogate me like any good friend would.” She smiled brightly at his invitation. “I gotta warn you though, I’ve only met Clark once when we were little, so I’m not going to be much use if you’re looking for blackmail…”
“You’ve only met Clark once?” she asked as she sat down across from him.
“Yep, I came and spent a couple of weeks on the Kent Farm when I was like seven,” the teen smiled warmly at the young woman. “After that, our parents had a bit of a falling out and we lost touch.”
Chloe nodded sympathetically, “So where are you from then?”
“A town that’s actually officially a little smaller than this one,” he answered with a chuckle. “It’s called Sunnydale and it’s a couple hours up the coast from Los Angeles.”
“Wow. That’s some trip to make without telling anyone you were coming,” she commented. “You’re not in trouble or anything, are you?”
They fell silent for a few moments as the waitress brought over Xander’s drink and muffin and took Chloe’s order. Once the girl was gone again, the Aesir smiled sadly at the blonde “You really, really like Clark, don’t you?” he asked, changing the subject.
“We’re just good friends,” she reiterated firmly, despite the slight blush that his statement brought to her cheeks, “and I try to look out for my friends.”
He paused for another long moment before speaking again. “I’m not in any trouble,” he affirmed finally, “not in the sense you mean anyway.”
“What sense do you think I mean?” she countered with a sly grin.
“I’m not in any trouble with the law, nor am I running away from home,” he answered with a grin of his own. “I’m also not on the run from any criminals and have no intention of hurting anyone or starting any trouble.” His joking tone turned Chloe’s grin into a full blown smile.
“So why are you her then?” she asked restraining a laugh.
Xander fell quiet almost instantly, the mirthful expression on his face fading quickly. “I don’t guess you’d believe me if I said it was just a visit?” he asked softly.
“What is it, Xander?” she asked, her voice suddenly growing concerned. “Wait, I’m prying and it’s really not any of my business.” She looked embarrassed by her curiosity. “I’m sorry, I’m just a journalist at heart… I really didn’t mean to push.”
“Yes, you did,” he countered with a sad grin, “and there was no harm done. You should never feel like you have to apologize for being yourself.”
Her face brightened again, a broad smile settling on her lips, “Most people don’t exactly count nosy reporters as a good thing… Thank you though.”
Xander smiled as the waitress brought out Chloe’s latte and took a big swallow of his own drink before picking at his muffin. Chloe reminded him of a strange mixture of Willow and Buffy. He decided he’d have to watch himself or he might end up pining after her the way he had with Buffy, which would probably be a bad thing since he was pretty sure she was crushing on his cousin.
“So,” he began as the waitress retreated from the table once more. “What is there to do for fun around here anyway?”
“You’re pretty much looking at it,” she replied with a grin. “Aside from the local movie theater and bowling alley, the Beanery is about the only place to go.”
“Wow, that pretty much puts the simple back in the Simple Life,” he said with a slightly shocked expression. “Of course, the nightlife in Sunnydale wasn’t actually much better. We did at least have a nightclub that let the high school kids in…”
“Well, during the school year, there’s a lot of interest in Smallville High sports, and Crater Lake has a nice beach where you can go during the summer. So how long are you planning on staying in town anyway?”
“That, uh, sorta remains to be seen,” the Aesir answered honestly, a dark shadow flitting momentarily over his features as he spoke.
“You know, I get the impression that something bad happened, Xander,” Chloe said softly, a sympathetic expression firmly in place as she met Xander’s gaze. “I know we don’t really know each other yet, but if you wanna talk about it, I can listen…”
A long awkward pause followed her offer as the teen considered her words. Talking about it wasn’t really high up on the list of things he wanted to do, but Chloe might be able to offer him reassurances he desperately needed about the situation. After all, she clearly knew more about the Kents and Smallville than he did.
He swallowed hard, reaching a decision. “There was an accident a couple of weeks ago, Chloe,” he began hesitantly. “It was one of those things that no one could have predicted… or prevented. An act of God maybe… who knows,” he shrugged.
He paused and took another swallow of his coffee, before dropping his eyes to the table. He couldn’t even look at the pretty blonde as he retold his tale. “A gas station exploded and threw a chunk of flaming debris half a mile. It hit my house. My Mom and Dad were trapped inside while the house burned to the ground.” He hadn’t liked repeating the lie, but there was no way he could tell her what had really happened. Who in their right mind would believe the mayor had sent a fire giant to attack his parents in order to get at him?
“Oh my God, Xander!” she exclaimed softly, reaching out and grabbing his hand comfortingly.
He looked up and smiled sadly, appreciating her genuine sympathy. “Mom always told me to come to Aunt Martha if anything ever happened to her, so here I am. If Aunt Martha and Uncle Jonathan can’t, or won’t, take me in, I’m not sure what’ll happen…”