Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Marvel Crossover AU (Self-Made Hero: The Infinity Mirror)
Summary: The last official member of their little team will take some work to retrieve.
Word Count: 1704
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“What’s one of the weirdest parts about living on a Hellmouth?” Kris asks out of the blue, and it says something that Xander doesn’t even act like her suddenly popping into his office and starting a conversation midway was out of the ordinary. ‘Course, given the content of the question, maybe it wasn’t that odd?
“I mean, I’m sure part of it is being a rural Hellmouth, since I don’t hear about this in Cleveland, but…it took me forever and I still don’t always remember that stores aren’t closed by 3 o’clock. I mean, dance clubs like the Bronze, sure, but things like grocery and hobby stores?” He shakes his head. “Thinking about it I’m pretty sure it’s because people wanted to get home well before dark to avoid being eaten, but growing up it just seemed normal ‘cause I didn’t have any frame of reference.”
She thinks about that for a second then nods before turning around and striding back to her office.
“That better not be a crossword answer!” he bellows after her.
“Wolves don’t fly, you idiot,” the thug hisses as the white and teal hulking suit descends.
“Well, maybe you just don’t have enough imagination, because I can guarantee you there are a lot of things you don’t think about which is why you’re so cliché—” she responds, and is interrupted by a gauntleted fist punching the man in the jaw and knocking him out.
“I get that you’re enjoying yourself but we’re not here to chat with the minions,” Paladin tells her, voice modulated, and despite that she thinks she can hear the amusement in his voice.
“Hey, your least favorite Slayer cleared me.” It’s probably not the best way to say it, but given that he doesn’t flinch, she hasn’t messed up. “Besides, isn’t quipping an essential part of the fight?”
Armored shoulders shrug, but he doesn’t glance in her direction—probably keeping an eye on her through the monitors in the suit. “You’re talking to Mr. Stealth, you know. I mean, there have been Paladin sightings, now, so I can slightly step out of the shadows, but you’re talking to the guy who didn’t step outside until I knew my stealth functions were functional.”
She pouts. “Aww, you’re no fun, bo—I mean, Paladin.” She doesn’t have to see him roll his eyes. That’s what her secretary senses are for. “I’ve heard a few of the stories of your strictly Exoskel days.”
“That’s a little less in yo’ face than a full armor suit. Easier for people to ignore evidence,” he responds. They walk in silence for a little ways before he breaks it again. Probably not on board with the whole ‘stealth first’ thing he’s trying to show her, but whatever. She’s not buying the whole ‘not a showoff’ thing. He’s not all the time, but he definitely can’t argue he isn’t ever. “You know, this smells nostalgic.”
Inside the suit, she wrinkles her nose. “You’re kidding me.”
“You have no idea how much time I spent in sewers as a kid. Sunnydale was a weird town,” he replies slightly wistfully. “Of course, I’m blocking most of it with the filters. I’m not an idiot. And I kinda favor disposing of these suits in an incendiary way after this mission. It’s a little wasteful but it’s not like I can’t afford it.”
“Nah, we clean ‘em and use ‘em for only the dirtiest jobs.” She pauses, then, because she’s noticed he enjoys puns, adds, “Done at a reasonable price?”
As expected, he snorts, undignified, and nods in agreement.
Tony’s slightly less talkative, later; when Pepper asks about Xander’s issues with alcohol, he shrugs and states blandly, “Nearly drank himself dead. I like him better alive.”
He really needs to stop it with the deadpan things no one should say, Pepper thinks, heart aching like Xander’s must have, and Tony steps forward and holds her. “I’ve gone sober for him before,” he whispers, and the fact that he has family, that he did what he could to be there for the kid in a way his own father never had…
It’s sweet and she’s pretty sure she loves him. “You’re still in trouble for not telling me about him, but…I’m pretty sure I agree with you. I like him being alive too,” she responds, and by the fond look and the affectionate kiss she’s got the feeling that she’s living up to his expectations.
“You wanna explain where you were?”
“Moving day.” It sounds offhanded but the touch of strain does not go unheard. “Mind explaining the bad guys parking on the front lawn?” He’s staring at the bodies of a couple demons just strewn about. Secrets aren’t a thing anymore, at the end of the world.
“We had a party without you.”
“See, this is why I should never go anywhere. You always plan your siestas for when I’m gone.”
Buffy raises an eyebrow. “You ever think there’s a connection?” she teases.
“Buffster, light of Sunnydale, you wound me.” He mimes grasping at his heart, which sends her into a fit of giggles.
“You have to be kidding,” Harper moans as the boss, still smiling despite the lost eye, packs more of his equipment into the Knight Innovations plane.
Nakol has no idea why they continue to question or be surprised by the man, considering the disaster of interview night. Of course he’d evacuate all of his employees, given how he cares for them like they’re family, and of course he’d stay himself.
“Yeah, well, I’m crazy, remember? We established this.”
He’s also far more chipper than any human should ever be at night. Which probably has something to do with the disposable cup in his hand.
“Well, there’s a reason such a crazy crew is working together,” Harper points out, and Nakol shrugs. The human isn’t wrong.
“Are you sure you want to pack that?” Ajhr asks, raising her sculpted eyebrow at a crate. She must be using her x-ray vision.
His face shutters. “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s a spare.”
Harper sighs. “And you’re gonna stay no matter what we say, right?”
Nakol growls. “Do not die.”
Knight pauses briefly before greeting them all with a hesitant if honest smile. “I’ll do my best.” He waves energetically as he exits the runway.
“You’re the CEO. From what I’ve been reading giving yourself a higher salary is not only normal but it is expected. The company could afford it.” Anya’s staring at the sheets, smiling a little at the math that means wonderful money.
“I can give you a raise, dear,” Xander says, distracted, and she frowns and looks up at him. He’s doodling on his papers, in the middle of another fit of creativity, which is fine but he needs to be practical sometimes, too. Her frown deepens and she resolves to bring it up again later.
“Why’d he choose you all and not me?” Spike is pacing.
Xander watches him go back and forth, back and forth. It’s making him slightly dizzy, which probably means it’s been a little too long since he last took a nap, but he can’t summon up the energy to stop watching. “It’s Ripper Giles. Short for Constantine Giles. He doesn’t tell us squat.” He makes a face. “Where does that phrase come from, anyway? It’s weird.”
Spike pauses, staring with shocked appreciation. “Yeah, I c’n see that, but ‘ow the ‘ell d’ya know Constantine, luv?”
Xander smiles sheepishly. “There was this comic books store Jesse’s mom used to take us to. Not too often, since it was on the outskirts of L.A., but every now and then. We found those and it was all teenage boy stuff—danger, excitement, maybe even sex, saving the world while flipping off all things attempting to be authority figures the British way. We didn’t buy any, since one of the parents would’ve found it, but we’d sit in there and we’d read the whole thing.”
The blond almost looks gentle as he asks, “’oo’s Jesse?”, but it earns a stricken expression all the same.
“Hey there, poopypants,” Willow says without preamble as she drops onto the couch dripping sweat from her training.
Xander mentally goes through a list. True, they haven’t been alone together since this all started, but…
“What did I do?” At the raised eyebrow, he adds, “…lately?”
“The you from my universe stopped being friends with me because he was jealous of Tara,” she explains, and he rolls his eyes.
“The other me is an idiot.”
Dr. Winifred Burkle had an amazing life. She was well-respected. Her work did brilliant things for the world. She had an attentive, loving fiancé.
Of course, the key word there was had.
The things you didn’t know could and definitely well did kill you. Such as her fiancée was actually involved in a cult. Such as she was sacrificed, screaming, begging, unable to believe the betrayal, her still beating heart cut out to draw darker things into the world.
Illyria had a cult. She was a Goddess, worshipped by so many followers. She had the respect and even fear from the other Hell Gods and Goddesses, including that windbag Glorificus.
The key word there was also had.
The things she hadn’t known had led to her being trapped, entombed for eternity. The things she hadn’t known had led to one presumptuous human assuming a life of accomplishment would do for a sacrifice in her name. The things she hadn’t known had led, through spells passed down the centuries, to the human named Wyndam-Pryce to assume that a summoned Hell Goddess could be tamed.
Fortunately, there were things that this Wyndam-Pryce also had not known, and she rose in the former body of his fiancée, teeth bared in a snarl and eyes glinting in the dark in a way that human’s eyes did not. His screams and his blood against her claws grown solely for the fact that she has no weapon and feels the need to tear are sweeter than the heart lying in the bowl.
When she finishes, she is uncertain of her path. In her diminished powers, she feels the loss of her cult, and many of the other greats have been locked away over the years by mere humans. Yet she cannot return to the life of this ‘Winifred’. She doesn’t know enough about being human to do so.
Curious, she touches the heart, and relives the savage rage, the retribution that this former Winifred had exacted through the blessing of her dark Goddess, and decides this is enough. In thanks for her release, she will obliterate this cult from the earth, these humans who dared to rival the demons in their evil. She uses some of her power to preserve the heart, a little more to make her clothes that of her liking, and leaves.
She’s nearly done when some of them manage to unearth a ritual to travel into different dimensions, and escape, and she’s blind with fury. She takes out her frustration on every vampire above a Hellmouth and feels a little better.
She nearly kills one of the ringleaders when he reappears, only he convinces her that he was not and never was one of the leaders when he shows her his power, and it’s chaotic but not evil as the other’s was. “The ones you seek have allied with an enemy of mine,” he explains. “If you join us, we will hunt them down.”
She soon meets the others—a witch, a wolf, a knight, an assassin—and agrees.
Apparently, they are to rescue one other. A Slayer. A human created specifically to hunt evil, and the more in this hunt, the merrier. She has never had comrades before, never fought with others other than her followers, but as the knight jokes even as he traps one of the runaway cultists in a cage of his own karma with woven words, she decides she likes the feeling.
( Follow the Path. )
Willow sighs into the phone. “Again?”
“Please. Me losing the key is a pretty believable excuse.”
“Someday, you’re going to have to keep an assistant.”
“Maybe we should make the Exoskel less obvious. Maybe disguise it as one of those huge ugly watches that scream ‘I’m expensive, pay attention to me now’?”
“Yes, Entil’Zha. That will definitely be less conspicuous.”