Title: Unstoppable
Authors: Lex's Lady & Mistress Ace
E-mail: winter@sapphire-dragon.net & rosewood@inreach.com
Feedback: It's the icing on the cake. We write because the story demands to be told. Feedback lets us know if we struck a chord with you.
Distribution: Our website, of course, www.fandomwriters.com. The list archives are welcome to it also. Anyone else, please ask first. We'd like to know where our fic is going.
Rating: NC-17 (eventually or maybe quickly depending on the whim of the muses)
Category: Crossover, Romance, Angst
Spoilers: All of season 1 of Smallville and season 6 of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Pairings: Buffy/Clark/Lex, m/f, m/m
Disclaimer: We don't own the characters at all (however much we might wish we did). Buffy and all references to BTVS are property of the great god Joss Whedon, et al. Clark, Lex and the Smallville storyline belong to Miller-Gough et al. We're just borrowing them for a while. We promise to put them back unharmed and perhaps a little happier.
Notes: ** denotes internal thought, * = italics.
Summary: What if the Summers girls moved to Smallville? What if Buffy discovered that Clark had a secret and thought he could use a confidant?
Dedications: From Em: To Ace, for her never-ending support and her willingness to work on this with me. She writes both Clark and Lex in a way I could never hope to achieve, and I couldn't possibly have done this on my own.
From Ace: To Em for reminding me why I love Buffy. To Beth for being my Smallville watching partner even when the scripts were awful. To the whole Clark/Lex list for opening my eyes to the potential here. And finally to Christina for her great story; Runaway Trains at 3 A.M. which was part of our inspiration. You can find it at: this site.

Chapter 30

Halfway back to the mansion, Lex pulled over and shut off the engine. The door dinged quietly as he got out, warning him that he'd left the keys in the ignition. The sound silenced when he closed the door and leaned against it, staring up at the sky.

A sky his lover had fallen from, coming down in a blaze of glory that tore Smallville apart. Scorched the earth, flattened houses and left the town reeling from the damage. No one who lived through the meteor shower was unaffected by it.

Himself included.

Absently, Lex ran his hand over his head, shivering at the touch. For years, he'd hated what the shower had done to him. Reviled and ridiculed by friends and family alike, he hid in the shadows and learned how to scheme and plot and lie with the best of them. He was a freak, someone no one else would ever want...

When he finally grew into his body and into his looks, his baldness became exotic. It drew lovers to him and while he knew on some level they were repulsed by his oddity, it didn't keep him from taking what was offered. Be it nose-candy, or sex, or money for sex when his father cut him off for those few months.

Clark was the first person to ever look at him and see him as something other than a freak. While Jonathan Kent was clear he thought that the apple hadn't fallen far from the tree where Lex was concerned, Clark had been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. So they became friends... and now they were lovers.

Not only that but they'd gained another person in their inner circle. Buffy... his Beauty. Strong and graceful and God... sensual in ways that no woman had ever been. While he and Clark had danced around the question of attraction for months, she'd taken them by the hand and taught them the steps that led him here.

To a cool May night with a million stars overhead. His body aching and sore and his heart... full.


The serious look on the girl's face was enough to convince Jonathan that sitting was probably in order. He pulled out a chair for her even as Clark took one of the other ones. There was an equally serious look on Clark's face, which normally meant trouble. Big trouble. "Why don't we all sit down?"

Before taking his own seat, Jonathan poured himself a glass of milk then eased in next to his son in a silent show of support for whatever was going on. Clark was fidgeting, something he did rarely. Just another sign that something was wrong.

Martha stood by the stove heating up the cocoa for Buffy and herself. Her guys, she knew, weren't big on cocoa, so she hadn't asked if they wanted any. It only took another moment before it was hot and she poured the steaming chocolate into mugs. She set one before Buffy and then took the fourth chair for herself.

"Thank you," Buffy said to Jonathan and Martha both in turn. She took a deep breath and then decided the best place to begin was much like she had with Lex. "There's something I want to tell you both that I think, and Clark agrees, might help give you some peace of mind. But I must ask you first to promise that you won't tell anyone about it. It's a secret, and if it gets out then it could put not just me but my family and friends at risk."

She took another breath and added slowly, "Clark says that you can be trusted to keep a secret, if you give your word. I trust him, and so I trust you too. Can you promise not to tell anyone, please?" She looked nervously from Martha to Jonathan; her eyes weren't exactly fearful because she knew she could be out of here in a flash if threatened. Clark could stop her, but he wouldn't. He might follow her, but he wouldn't stop her.

But sharing her identity with her lover's parents was kind of a big deal.

A little startled at her vehemence and desire to open up to complete strangers, Jonathan studied Buffy for a moment. He also watched Clark, whose hand crept across the table to cover Buffy's. That simple touch spoke volumes. Their son was only openly affectionate with them, he rarely touched anyone outside of their family... a holdover from the earliest years when training Clark to control his strength had required his not touching.

Sometime today both Lana Lang and Chloe Sullivan had been replaced in Clark's life by this slip of a girl. Who looked like the world was going to crash down around her. Reaching out, he covered her other hand with his own. "You can trust us. How can we help?"

Buffy breathed a sigh of relief and smiled a little. His words, while not strictly a promise, were an agreement of sorts. She decided to trust him and Clark, and simply go on with her story. "Well, actually, I thought it might help you to know about me. It helped Clark a lot this morning; he was really happy to know that he's not the only... unusual person in the world."

Before the Kents could freak out, she hurriedly went on. "I know this is hard to believe, really, but I'm not entirely human. Or, rather, I was human to begin with and then I became more. I am the Slayer, the Chosen One. I have increased strength, stamina, endurance, healing capabilities, accuracy and reflexes, among other things. The Slayer is Chosen by The Powers That Be, or some call those powers God. She stands between the world and the forces of darkness."

Martha shared a glance with Jonathan; Buffy obviously knew something about Clark... but by her own admission, she was similar. Human, but still with some similarities to Clark's abilities. No wonder she was nervous about admitting the truth, and no wonder Clark felt easier about touching her.

Still, it was difficult for Martha to believe. "What do you mean, 'the forces of darkness?'" she asked, a little uncertain. It sounded like she was talking myths or fairy tales!

One thing about raising an alien son, it meant that you had to be open-minded. Jonathan didn't pull away; he held onto Buffy's hands and looked her straight in the eye.

His wife had joined them, setting a mug in front of Buffy and taking a seat on the other side of her. They exchanged one more look before Clark spoke up. "Mom, you know those books that Chloe loaned me? The ones by Anne Rice..?"

When his mom nodded, he continued. "She got some of the stuff wrong but there are vampires. They exist and it's Buffy job to take them out." As both his mother and father stared at him, Clark shrugged. "I know it sounds weird but she's really strong and fast... she threw me halfway across Lex's gym."

His son believed every word of what he was saying, every single word. Jonathan shook his head, "That's a little far-fetched, Clark." No more far-fetched than a teen-aged boy who floated or could run from one end of the state to another in a matter of minutes. Living with Clark meant taking even the most unusual things in stride but this?

Buffy gently pulled her hand away from Clark and shifted in her chair. She pulled her hair away from her neck, her scar visible on her pale skin. "This scar is from a vampire bite. It's the only visible scar on my body because of my healing abilities. But Clark very accurately pinpointed my various injuries earlier today, with his special vision."

Her eyes met Clark's as she let her hair go, and she asked gently, "Do you want to run through the list for them, Clark?" He could, and she wouldn't mind. They'd be more likely to believe it from him than from her, she suspected. No human would've been able to survive all the injuries she'd had, unmarked.

Oh God, she knew about Clark. That's what she meant about his being unusual. It was then that Jonathan let go of her hand and shot a hard look at his son, who was staring at Buffy. Before he could say anything in protest, Clark's voice filled the room. "Right collarbone - four places, left - five, ribs - every one at least once, right arm - four times, left - three times, with one break still healing."

His gaze dropped below the level of the table and a slight flush colored his cheeks. "Umm... right hip... that must have hurt." Clark's hand tightened on Buffy's in quiet sympathy while his parents watched in astonishment. "Left leg - at least six times. There's scar tissue..."

"That's enough, son." Jonathan broke off the remaining commentary with a wave of his hand. He rubbed wearily at his face before asking, "What exactly do you know about Clark?"

"I know he's not from our world. I know he's probably the only being on this planet who could kill me without breaking a sweat, but I also know that he's one of the gentlest souls I've ever met. I trust him and he trusts me and we shared our secrets with each other. Because I thought he could use a confidante, honestly. I would've given anything to have someone who really understood what I was going through, when I was Clark's age," Buffy admitted softly.

"I was only fifteen when I was Called, and I had no idea what was happening to me. Suddenly I had a destiny, and there was nothing I could do about it. I've been where Clark is, and if there's anything in my experience that can help him, then I want to help." Soft, earnest tones: she truly meant what she said, and had no reason to hide anything.

"I know what it's like to suddenly not be able to be hurt by ordinary things, or to bend solid metal with my bare hands. I know what it's like to bear the weight of the world on my shoulders, because I've done it for six years. And I know what it's like to be the only one who can see and stop the bad things that are happening around me. And I don't want what happened to me, to happen to Clark. I'd do anything I possibly could to prevent it."

Martha was almost, but not quite, staring at the young woman who spoke so calmly about bearing the weight of the world. She'd heard some of Clark's friends complain about how Clark always seemed to be a hero, how he seemed to want to. Running off to save people. And Buffy spoke of the same things with the conviction of one who has lived it.

She didn't like the idea of her baby boy being so open with a new friend about his secrets... but the girl had given him her secret in return. Or perhaps she'd given it first. And now she was giving it to herself and Jonathan, too, as if that would help them believe that she wouldn't betray Clark.

Jonathan rubbed the back of his neck as he watched her and then Clark. There were definite stars in Clark's eyes and his hand still covered Buffy's. No mistaking the look on Clark's face, Jonathan knew it by heart. It was the look he gave Martha every morning and every night. That look of disbelief that someone so beautiful and so perfect could find it in her heart to love him.

This was not a crush.

Clark was in love with this girl. Deeply and completely and for the first time in his life. It was never easy to keep a secret from someone you loved. He and Martha had actually discussed this possibility and had come to the conclusion that when Clark finally found that one person they fully expected him to tell her. They'd hoped it would come later in life because despite his maturity, he was only sixteen. But there was no fighting love.

All this left him with a sinking feeling that something had happened at Lex's that didn't involve watching movies. But Lex had been there for at least part of the day and there had been nothing in his manner that even hinted at that possibility. The thought of Lex Luthor as a chaperone was disturbing. Very disturbing.

"Clark... did you?" Even before he said anything else, his son nodded. Confirmation that he'd voluntarily shared his secret with her. "This is a lot to take in. You're such a little thing... And you threw Clark?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, I did. More than once." She tilted her head slightly. "I could demonstrate if you want me to, but we'd need to go outside. I wouldn't want to break anything in the house." She shook her head slightly. "My mom was always replacing things that got broken at home, back when, so I try not to mess around inside the house anymore." Her eyes dimmed slightly at the mention of her mother and she dropped her gaze to the tabletop.

She hadn't expected it to be so hard to talk about her mom. But she missed her very much... and more than anything, she wished Joyce were still alive.

Martha frowned when she saw the look of sadness creep into Buffy's eyes. She didn't know what caused it, but thought it might have something to do with her mother. Especially since Buffy couldn't look at them while she dealt with her emotions. Had something happened to the Summers girls' mom? The poor things... losing a parent was probably one of the hardest things a child could go through.

A shared look transpired between the Kents before Jonathan asked quietly, "Buffy, should you be out this late? Do you want to call your parents and let them know where you are?"

When he asked that question, the sadness deepened and Clark's hand tightened over Buffy's. There was definitely something wrong here. His son was on the verge of climbing over the kitchen table to get to Buffy, to comfort her. "Dad... Buffy and Dawn are on their own. Her mom passed away last year."

Clark didn't think that Buffy would mind his telling his folks about her situation. Not with them knowing that she was the Slayer and the look on his mother's face told him that he'd done the right thing. His mom was melting, going all protective and well... mom-like.

Jonathan Kent had a lot of responsibilities and a lot of worries. A farm that was barely making it, a wife who regretted every day not being able to give him children and most importantly a son who he had to protect and keep the outside world from stealing away from the bosom of his family. His sense of belonging and family ran deeper than anything else in his life.

And here was a young woman who'd been cut adrift from the very anchor that kept him sane. She and Dawn were too young to be out on their own. Every protective and parental instinct kicked in with those few words from his son. Any worries or doubts he had about Buffy vanished in an instant.

"Dawn knows that I'll be home late; I called her earlier. She was at Lana's all day, but I'd assume she's home by now. I promised to wake her when I got home so she'd know I was back safe. Not that there are any demons in Smallville, but she's lost too much in the last year to not want to be sure," Buffy admitted softly. "In a way, she's worse than I am. Because she didn't just lose mom, she lost me too."

Buffy bit her lip and cringed as soon as she realized what she'd actually said. She hadn't meant to tell them that. Really, she hadn't.

"What do you mean, she lost you too? You're obviously still here..." Martha was truly confused this time. She obviously hadn't abandoned her sister and was doing the best she could to take care of the teenage girl. Martha got up from the table and walked around it. She wrapped an arm around Buffy's shoulders and pulled the girl into a gentle hug. "You can talk to us, honey. I mean it... anything, even if it seems bizarre. Okay?" Her fingers smoothed over soft blonde hair and she felt it the moment Buffy relaxed and leaned against her.

"Okay," Buffy agreed softly. "But so many things have happened that I can barely believe. I wouldn't be surprised if it sounded impossible to you."

"With Clark around we have impossible for breakfast." Jonathan's smile was genuine as he squeezed her hand again. "How many other people have children who float?"

It was surprising how easily his parents were accepting all of this given how hard they'd tried to keep his secret a secret. His dad's sense of humor was even showing up and that was a very good thing. Maybe they were just as relieved as he was to have someone to share it with.

Buffy giggled and nodded. "I suppose about as many as have a daughter who can throw someone Clark's size across a room," she agreed easily enough. "But to answer your question, Mrs. Kent, I died a few months after my mother did. I was dead for more than four months, then brought back by magic-wielding, well-meaning friends." She shivered lightly and briefly hid her face against Martha's sweater.

When she turned back and opened her eyes again, she added softly, "I'm still working my way through that one, even though it's been something along the lines of eight months that I've been back." She decided to keep to herself the bits about being in Heaven and digging her way out of her own grave.

She saw identical looks of disbelief on Martha and Jonathan's faces and she went completely still. "See? I told you it sounded impossible," she said just as softly. Her eyes turned to Clark and she felt very helpless. "Maybe I should just go... I'm sorry if I messed things up."

Without saying a word, Martha tipped Buffy's face up to look at hers with two fingers under the girl's chin. She searched Buffy's eyes for any sign of deceit, any hint of untruth. But she didn't find any. Which meant that either Buffy was crazy, or she was telling the truth. And Martha honestly had no idea which might be the case.

Clark was on his feet in half a heartbeat and around the table in even less time. Covering Buffy's shoulder with one hand, he held her in place. "No. Buffy, you promised that you'd stay." He looked first at his mom and then at his dad. "I know it's hard to believe but she's telling the truth. Let's go to the barn, okay?"

He could at least prove the strength and speed out there. Once that was established, then maybe his folks would believe the rest.

Coming back from the dead was impossible but they'd seen it happen. Earlier that year Martha had been attacked by a young man who'd done just that. A young man whose touch turned people to ash and Clark had shown them the coroner's report that proved he'd been dead before showing up in Smallville. "All right, Clark. We can do that."

Martha nodded her agreement and released Buffy. She stepped back to stand behind her husband and they watched Buffy relax. Whether it was Clark's intervention, the fact that neither she nor Jonathan had actually said anything yet, or something else she wasn't sure. But Buffy did relax, and perhaps that was the important thing.

Buffy looked up at Clark and nodded slowly. "Okay, we'll go out to the barn. I did promise, and I'll do the best that I can, okay?" She had to bite back the endearments and the impulse to reach out and touch him. The desire to be in Clark's arms was intense, but she knew she couldn't do that. Clark was being entirely unsubtle about his feelings for her, which meant that she had to be even more circumspect.

Clark, in turn, shot her a wide grin before stepping back. His dad was already up and grabbing coats for each of them. The discussion had been a little tense and was far from over. But at least they weren't too mad about his spilling his secret to Buffy.

Or maybe they were... his mom had that real worried look on her face when Buffy got up and turned around. And his dad was being really quiet; his jaw hard and set even as he held out the coat that Buffy had worn earlier. "It'll be chilly out. You might want to put this on." Yep, dad was mad. That was definitely his mad but being cool about it voice.

Buffy took the coat with another murmured 'thank you' but didn't say anything otherwise. She slipped it on and stood silently to wait while everyone else got ready to go outside. She decided that saying anything more could be a very big mistake, and she didn't want to do that.

Staying as near Clark as possible without being clingy, she very definitely wished she could hold his hand. She felt adrift, alone, like she had to prove herself yet again to more people who only wanted to judge her. If only she hadn't gotten emotional and slipped up...

It was her own fault, she knew. If Clark's parents weren't inclined to be open-minded, she could easily find herself banned from his life and that would make things even harder for her. Could she continue a relationship with him directly against his parents' mandate? She honestly didn't know if she could. Aside from being blatantly illegal, should they decide to charge her with corrupting a minor, it would also mean that Clark would have to lie to his parents any time he wanted to see or talk to her.

Martha was also keeping quiet. She was assessing the situation in her mind, trying to figure out if there was any way to salvage this situation. Buffy knew Clark's secret, that much they knew. But if she were certifiable, people would probably assume that she was just spouting more nonsense if she should actually say anything.

But if Buffy was telling the truth and genuinely wanted to help Clark, it might be the best possible thing for him. It would give him someone to identify with, someone to help him work through the issues he was having with normal life. Not to mention the fact that Clark genuinely cared about Buffy, and keeping her away from him could do more harm than good to Clark's emotional stability.

Martha was confused, a little angry and a little sad that Clark had seen fit to tell Buffy the family secret without consulting them first... but she could also see why he would want to, when she told him her secret. Assuming that she was telling the truth.

Clark slipped his own jacket on and reached for Buffy's hand, only to have her move away. Her words of warning came back immediately. The ones about having to be careful about the physical stuff and being affectionate which... really sucked. He could see her closing up, turning inward and couldn't do anything to stop it.

And this was how it was going to have to be with her. With both of them. Unable to touch in public, unable to kiss or even really look at each other. The squirming feeling was back, tickling inside his head along with an angry voice that wanted out.

Lex was his. Buffy was his. And nobody could know about it. Not for years and years and years.

Clark's shoulders slumped a little as he held the door open for Buffy, being careful to keep his distance. He caught an appraising look and a nod from his dad when he walked past, followed by a light squeeze on his arm from his mom. Parental signs of support of another one of his hopeless crushes... if they only knew.

Even withdrawn as she was, Buffy could see the struggle in Clark's eyes. The desire to be close, to protect, to be open about their feelings for one another. But they couldn't. And all she could do was suffer with him in silence... she knew her emotions would be mistaken for sorrow over the current situation over her identity and Clark's, not to mention her state-of-living such as it was.

This sucked. It really and truly sucked. She wanted to scream and cry and smash something, but she couldn't do any of those things. She couldn't even take her frustration out on some hapless demon, because there were none. All she could do was follow along, out to the barn, and do whatever was asked of her.

Martha watched Buffy for another moment but she couldn't stand to see the way the girl's head hung as if she were expecting a sentence of banishment or something. It could be guilt for lying, but Martha didn't think so given the emotions she'd seen in Buffy before. It was more like she expected to be told that she couldn't see a good friend, which might very well be the case.

Martha caught up with Buffy and touched her arm gently. "Buffy," she said gently, "we don't mean to be harsh, not at all. Please understand that this is a very big deal for us, that a secret of twelve years isn't a secret anymore. And it isn't that we don't want to believe you, it's just that what you say just doesn't seem possible."

"It's okay, Mrs. Kent," Buffy replied softly. "You're handling it better than my mother did, when she found out. I just... Clark is the one of the only friends I have in Smallville, and I don't want to lose that. He's a great kid." Buffy prayed silently that Clark either hadn't heard or would remember her earlier warning about needing to treat him like a kid or a younger brother. She hoped to God that she hadn't hurt him.

Shoulder to shoulder, Jonathan walked beside his son across the main yard. Clark's hands were tucked in his jacket pockets, obviously trying very hard to keep from looking back over his shoulder at Buffy. He could hear Martha's quiet words, then a murmur from Buffy in return and watched Clark's head come up as he heard her voice.

Clark wore the exact same expression earlier this year when his crush on Lana looked like it was going to turn into something felt on both sides. Hopeful and a little happy until he caught Jonathan watching him. That sent the smile away and his son stumbled a little. Jonathan clapped his hand on Clark's shoulder and smiled. "Pretty girl, son."

Those were just the right words to get a smile and a shrug from Clark, as well as the hint of a blush. The light above the barn was enough to spot the telltale flush. Jonathan refrained from pointing out that Buffy was too old for Clark. They could have that discussion later.

Right along with the one about sex and why it was a good idea to wait.

"May I ask what happened with your mother, when she found out?" Martha asked, again in a very gentle tone. She didn't want to reopen old wounds, but she was curious. And Buffy had brought it up...

"Sure. She was standing on the porch when I walked up to the house with an acquaintance who knew about me. A vamp jumped out at us and I staked it right in front of her; it was either that or let someone be hurt. We had a long talk and I tried to explain to her about being the Slayer, what it is and how it happened," Buffy's tone was reminiscent and a little sad.

"And she just couldn't accept it. She didn't see the signals that had been there all along, and she wanted to know why I couldn't just stop. She demanded that I stop, that I just be a normal teenager. But I couldn't do that. We argued about it until I had to leave again... there was a demon plotting to end the world, and if I didn't stop him it would've been very bad. I was heading out the back door, and she stopped me."

Buffy closed her eyes briefly and the hurt of the memory washed over her again. She took a deep breath and finished the bit of the story, "She told me that if I walked out that door, not to come back. And I had to leave anyway; the fate of the world was at stake. When the battle was over, late that night, I climbed in my bedroom window and packed myself a bag. I left a note for her and Dawn, then I left again."

"Even though I knew she didn't mean it... I couldn't stay. The whole night had been traumatic, and I ran away. I was seventeen, and I spent the entire summer in LA on my own." She looked up at Martha and then finished with, "But I went back. She forgave me, and I was home again."

His hand stayed on Clark's shoulder, leading him into the barn. Strange to think they'd woken up this morning to a perfectly normal day. Chores to be done and errands to be run and all the things that made up their lives. Only to come home to Clark wanting to take a walk with a pretty girl and both of them disappearing for hours.

And now the girl knew Clark's secrets. Their son, usually so cautious around strangers had told her everything because she claimed to have secrets of her own. Clark wanted to belong so badly, wanted to be normal that it made sense he would tell everything to someone who might make him feel normal.

At least it wasn't Lex. God know what would happen if Lionel Luthor's son ever uncovered the truth about Clark. Lex was all about what Lex could get out of a situation and he was engaged in an all-out war with his father.

He'd use Clark in a heartbeat. Wither to deliver him to Lionel as a prize in exchange for something else he wanted or as a weapon against him. Clark would make a powerful weapon. Given the right motivation, his son could be turned into a force of mass destruction. Just the sort of thing that should never fall into either of the Luthors' hands.

Buffy and Martha joined Clark and Jonathan in the barn, and the two women ended their discussion as they came in. Martha rested her hand on Buffy's shoulder briefly, for some reason proud of the girl for having the courage to go home again after being kicked out and then running away. But there were other matters to attend to at the moment, and Martha could tell that Jonathan was still wary of Buffy.

So was she, to be honest, but not as much as her husband.

After a moment of silence and studying the ground rather intently, Buffy asked in a rather tentative voice, "What happens now? What do you want me to do?" She felt helpless, almost hopeless, and the emotions were reflected in her eyes when she lifted them to find Clark's. Her fear of being banished from Clark's life was written clearly in hazel depths. She felt like they were going to expect her to say goodbye.

Clark was the one who stepped up to the plate by stripping off his coat and hanging it up on a hook. "Strength stuff first." He caught her eye as he moved into the first position of the kata she'd taught him. Hands raised, ready to be thrown. Once his folks saw what Buffy could do, they would have to believe and things would be better.

The fluid way Clark moved was something neither Jonathan nor Martha had ever seen before. While he wasn't actually clumsy, Clark was also still growing into his new height. The last growth spurt had left him a little coltish, all elbows and knees that tripped him up when he was nervous.

Apparently Buffy had been teaching him something over at Lex's because Clark was now standing perfectly still, the majority of his weight balanced on one foot and his right shoulder back. Whole body poised as he waited for Buffy to move.

Buffy nodded and gave him a smile. "You're definitely getting better," she said lightly as she also took off her coat. She hung it on the same hook Clark's was on and moved to stand in front of him. There was a fair-sized empty space behind her, plenty of room if she was careful. "Ready?" At his nod, she utilized her strength and speed to throw him carefully across the open space. She smiled again when she saw that they'd calculated correctly.

Clark had resisted just enough to help her control the throw and she'd thrown him easily enough that he didn't hit the wall. Instinctive, for both of them, but that only spoke of how good a team they could make, should they work together.

The combined gasp from his parents was very satisfying. His dad held his mom back, hand on her arm to keep her from running to him. Clark bounced up onto his feet and came at Buffy, not too fast but fast enough that when she threw him again, the momentum was enough to put him all the way across the length of the barn.

It was Jonathan's turn to move toward Clark. His son was no light-weight and Buffy had thrown him a good thirty feet. While he knew Clark wouldn't be hurt, it still was a shock to see a little slip of a girl toss him around like this.

On his feet again, Clark ran toward Buffy using some of his phenomenal speed. Open-mouthed, the Kents watched as she not only was able to evade his charge, but use his weight to send him tumbling again. This wasn't just martial arts. She really was that strong.

Buffy bounced on the balls of her feet, relaxing into the rhythm of motion. When he started using his speed, she didn't dare take her eyes off him to see how his parents were reacting. She caught him on another speed charge and threw him once more. Then she called out to him, "Okay, this is getting repetitive. You willing to let me try something?" Her eyes were on Clark, as was the focus of her attention.

Her glance at the Kents showed that they were too much in awe to protest before Clark agreed. She knew he would agree, because she knew he trusted her. And if she could get him close enough and keep him between her and his parents, she could relax enough to give him a special smile.

"Of course," he called back, stopping long enough to strip off his flannel shirt and toss it over the railing. Clark walked past his parents, shot them a brilliant smile and stopped right in front of Buffy. "What do you have in mind?"

This was their son? This confident young man who stood perfectly at ease... was this their Clark? He looked taller and stronger and bigger than the boy who'd led them out to here. Jonathan rubbed the back of his neck, wondering if he should call a halt to all this. But seeing Clark like this was... startling.

"I'm going to pick you up again," Buffy murmured, voice low enough that it wouldn't carry to his parents. "But I want to do it a little differently. Curl your hands into fists and lock your arms tight at your sides, okay?" And he was standing perfectly between her and his parents, so she gave him a bright, loving, reassuring smile and mouthed the words, 'I love you, baby'. His answering smile was everything she'd hoped it would be.

Despite her awe, Martha couldn't help but notice the difference in Clark, too. Whatever they'd done during the day, whatever she'd apparently taught him, it had been good for him. Clark looked relaxed, easy, confident. He looked like any other young man getting used to his place in the world and not as much like her troubled baby boy as she'd seen earlier. Buffy was good for him, if she could give him this kind of confidence.

And perhaps part of it was relief in having someone who could handle his super powers, to some extent.

'I love you,' Clark's mouth formed the soundless words in return even as he followed her instructions. Hands fisted and arms tight, he managed not to moan when she moved close enough for him to catch the scent of Lex's soap on her skin. His parents were watching, he couldn't grab her and kiss her no matter how much he wanted to.

The hand on his arm slipped downward and found his own. Jonathan spared his wife a glance before they both turned their full attention back on Clark and Buffy. They had a few things to talk about once this was all over.

Buffy's hands found Clark's, and she gripped his fists tightly. Then, in a move that was pure strength, she bent her knees and ducked down then lifted Clark. The first upward surge got her hands level with her shoulders. A lightning-fast shift spun her hands under his knuckles to shift the orientation of her grip and another upward surge ended with him supported up over her head, both pairs of arms fully extended and straight.

Her face was tight with concentration and control as she very slowly turned in place one full revolution. She was so focused that she completely missed the expression on the Kents' faces as they stared at her in total shock.

"I'm going to let you down now, Clark," she said clearly after she stood still again. "You'll want to lean back slightly as you head downwards so that you don't land too close. Okay?"

"Okay," he replied, grinning the whole time. Clark felt the shift in her body and went along with it, leaning back until he felt his feet touch the ground. From behind him, he heard his father cough to clear his throat.

Together, he and Buffy turned to look at his folks who were standing by the stairs. His dad was shaking his head which could be a bad sign. But it wasn't because he was smiling too. "I think you proved your point. We believe you, Buffy."

The smile that lit her eyes was almost as bright as Clark's. Not just a pretty girl. A beautiful girl... just the sort of girl he'd hoped his son would find one day. It was a little early for him to find the one but Clark had always been a quick study. He'd learned English in a matter of months, took to math like a duck to water and was able to fix just about anything if shown how to do it once. So it made sense he would find his match while still in his teens.

Buffy just knew that a brilliant smile lit up her face when Mr. Kent said they believed her. Relief and gratitude and happiness welled up all at once and she impulsively hugged Clark. She was careful to keep it casual, more wrapping her arms around him briefly with their bodies at a careful distance than a true hug. But she felt relatively sure that it would be taken as an outpouring of happiness rather than anything intimate.

She was actually tempted to hug Clark's parents as well, but decided she didn't know how they would take it. Clark was very physically demonstrative, but that could be from his careful control as much as from a touchy-feely family. "Thank you, thank you so much," she said, happiness and relief bubbling over into her voice.

Martha smiled at Buffy's very visible relief and gave the girl another light hug. "You're welcome," she said gently. She studied the girl... no, really a young woman though she resembled a girl just now. Buffy really was quite beautiful, especially now when the sadness in her eyes was drowned by more pleasant emotions. What Buffy really needed was a supportive family, to help ease the eternal sadness from her expression.

She'd have to talk to Jonathan about it, but Martha hoped that perhaps they could be an unofficial surrogate family for Buffy and her sister. There was no way they could support the girls or anything, but they could be there for advice when needed or just a place to come when they were down or lonely.

Everyone needed a place to feel welcome.


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