Xander walked into the Kents’s kitchen where Aunt Martha was working away on something that smelled amazing. He opened his mouth to speak… then closed it. The words wouldn’t come.
“What is it, Xander? Are you ribs still hurting?”
Xander flushed, but shook his head. Well, they were, but not that bad. He’d been doing fine, even still helping with the chores. “No. I’m fine. It’s just….”
She smiled at him, so open, so welcoming.
He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “It’s kinda weird. I don’t know how to explain….”
“Xander, you know I’d be happy to help you with anything.” She smirked and for a moment looked a lot like her father. “Well, I’d prefer if it isn’t illegal.”
He chuckled. “Me too. Well, I don’t think so. It’s just… odd. Umm… Is there a corner of the property I could use, set up a bonfire…”
“Ah, right. Well, my best friend went Wiccan the last few years and she’s… You know what that is?”
“Of course. We’re not completely cut off from the modern world here in Smallville.”
“Oh, no.” He waved a hand dismissing the idea. “No. But I didn’t know what it meant when Willow announced she was Wiccan and wanted me to help her celebrate Imbolc.”
“I can see how that would be confusing.” She was smiling, but he could also see laughter in her eyes. Why was the laughter always at his expense?
Then again, he was good at it. “Yeah, well, I got it quick enough. And I’ve kind of gotten used to the seasonal rituals,and even though I’m not there and she’s not here…” He cut himself off and shook his head. “Sorry. It’s Lammas tomorrow, and around here it just seems right to celebrate a harvest festival.”
She nodded. “Sounds reasonable. I can’t say Jonathan will understand, but he doesn’t have to know everything.” She dusted off her hands and led Xander onto the porch. “The back end of the west field is fallow this year,” she said, pointing. “I’d suggest clearing the ground a bit, but pull the old vegetation and you shouldn’t set anything on fire. And you should be far enough from the road and house no one will comment.”
“Thanks, Aunt Martha. I really appreciate it.”
“Not a problem. Just take a few buckets of water just in case. I assume you’ll want to start around sunset?”
“Well, I’ll have dinner on the table a little early and leave you some snacks for after. I’ve got a lovely oatcake recipe I don’t get to use very often.”
“That sounds delicious.”
Xander borrowed the truck for unspecified work that afternoon and slipped out to the west field. It was easy enough to clear some space in the fallow field and lay out the firewood and buckets he’d stashed in the truck. Water he didn’t have, but dirt would work as well for fire suppressant. He added a box containing the few other items he’d need later and headed back to help with the cows.
After dinner, he said he was going for a walk and sauntered off. He barely had time to start laying out candles before a rustle foreshadowed Clark’s appearance from the neighboring corn.
“Uh… Hey,” Xander said hesitantly. Then Chloe appeared, and Pete. And Pete. So Tina had joined them too, it seemed.
“I, uh… overheard you talking to Mom yesterday,” Clark said.
“Ah.” Xander bit his lip.
“And when he told me,” Chloe said, “it seemed to me that we should help.”
“Help? It’s not a matter of helping—”
“We know magic is real,” Pete said. “Well, we know vampires are real and are taking some of the rest of it on faith. But if vampires are real and magic is real then maybe there’s something to the old harvest festivals and stuff. And Smallville could use some help on that front.”
“So, Chloe did some research,” Tina said, melting back to her natural look, “but feel free to correct us.” She stepped forward and picked up the one candle Xander had laid out.
“Umm… How much trouble am I going to get into with your parents?” Xander asked even as he handed the other three candles.
“We’re just hanging out,” Clark said, smiling innocently.
“Oy,” Xander muttered, shaking his head. “All right. Why not.” And he started directing.