Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Iron Man Crossover (Self-Made Hero)
Summary: Buffy reveals a secret to Xander who fumbles through his words and does his best to help. (...yeah, this still applies.)
Word Count: 875
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“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.
“So, how was the City of the Angels?” Xander asks with a slow smirk and Buffy bursts into tears.
He looks alarmed now. “That bad, huh?”
She blinks. “Wait, what?” She’s staring at him as if she’s never seen him before. He wasn’t…he wasn’t yelling at her?
He grins briefly but quickly turns serious. “Hey, it’s hardly like you’re the only superhero in town. I’d rather you take some time off than be distracted and die.” She quickly glances at the rest, including Mom’s friends, but they’re suddenly all talking to each other. She suspects he’s using some kind of magic, which if it gives her a break is fine with her.
She doesn’t care that everyone else is in the room. She runs into his hug, because if nothing else Xander is good at hugs. “Why…?”
“I like Angel.” She pushes away to stare at him. He hasn’t been replaced by an evil clone while she was away, has he? “No, seriously, I do. Mostly. I tease him and everything else. He’s also the only one who will let me patrol without a fuss. But I like you alive more. Selfish, definitely, but. And go on and hate me if it makes it easy, because lemme tell you, Willow does. She’s barely talking to me, and it hurts, but…” he shrugs. “…it’s not like I don’t deserve it.”
She bites her lip. “Angel would’ve made the same choice,” she says slowly. “That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, mister, but. I understand. Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions.” She’d been feeling so alone as Slayer. Like no one understood.
“Everyone else hates patrolling, but I’ll keep doing so in your stead if you don’t wanna.” Moving on. Business. He might be a goofball, but he knows how to be serious when it’s needed.
“Actually, you get demoted to my sidekick.” She lets a smile play around her lips as he pouts theatrically. “In Angel’s memory.”
He nods, wiping away all trace of the amusement. “In Angel’s memory.”
Buffy stops eating a pancake midway through, completely oblivious to the syrup escaping and dripping onto the table. If she’d noticed Xander’s eyes follow every drop, she probably would have realized the sacrilege that it is, but she’s too busy following the thought. “I remember something else,” she says slowly, trying to get used to the idea that someone would actually listen to anything she says and not just dismiss it as lies. And with the way Xander leans forward, actively waiting on her word, now, she has that listener. “In another dimension, I’m Lady Liberty, I guess.”
Xander quirks an eyebrow in an awfully familiar way that she actively recognizes from Tony, now that she thinks about it. “Captain America,” she elaborates, because, oh yeah, that’s right, her male counterparts get a cooler name. “They made me change my real name.” She doesn’t remember what to; it’s horribly clichéd no matter what era it’s from.
That’s the frown Tony makes when he’s horribly offended and about to ruin someone’s day. “That’s all very super sexist. Bet they sanitized the movies.”
“I’m sure they sanitized everything, but…” Now that she thinks about it, it’s natural for her to feel a kinship to a guy who wanted to help and was given powers but was thrown into a fight without too much preparation or support. And then found himself way out of his depth, but kept trying anyway. And then she processes the idea of Xander, of Tony, discussing something as being sexist while looking offended, and she snorts. Very unladylike.
He steals a bit of her bacon while she’s not looking, which earns a death glare. Still, stuff like that, it tends to be a distraction so she doesn’t look too close at something else, so… “You definitely weren’t one of the worst Tonys. But then, Howard was locked up for being a jerk a while ago and Jarvis practically raised you, so…”
He flashes one of the patented camera smiles at her and relaxes a little. Then he winces.
“What? Are you all right?” she asks. He might think she’s oblivious to the migraines, but when he keeps having to take aspirin a lot, she notices.
“Just a memory flash. Not a full personality,” he reassures her before looking thoughtful. “I could make you your shield, you know.”
Now it’s her turn to frown. “There’s no vibranium in this dimension, and I don’t think others would take too kindly to you entering their world just to obtain some.”
“Where we’re going, we don’t need vibranium,” Xander says in a good imitation of Doc Brown, and his smile turns smug and catlike when that startles a laugh out of her. “See? Made you laugh.” And there’s Xander, Captain of Team Morale. “I made the Exoskel. Bet I could whip something up.”
“I’m not going to take that bet. I’m not stupid. I technically don’t have any money.” And now that she’s opening her mind up to that, doesn’t this feel just familiar?
“Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.” Before she can open her mouth to complain, he holds up a placating hand. “If nothing else, call it services rendered for saving the world. I am of the extreme and just opinion that those fat idiots of the Council should’ve thought about hazard pay before they gave themselves an lazy man’s salary.”
If she thinks about the pay like being a soldier, it rankles less, so she shuts up as Xander goes on another wild story complete with gestures and just lets herself relax. With pancakes.
Dru’s distressed, swaying around. “Promise you’ll be careful, Spike. Dorothy’s coming to town with all her little friends and they’re not as you remember them. For all the Tin Man’s brains he is the Heart. The little dog Toto’s got fangs. Oz is really the Cowardly Lion. Glinda and the Lion have history and the man behind the curtain puts on a puppet show. The Scarecrow’s blue and she stole an improved brain by sacrificing her heart.”
Spike kisses her forehead. “I’ll be careful, pet.”
“You clearly don’t think much of the study of thought, Mr. Harris,” Walsh states with bite, and Buffy glances over at Xander, who’s been fidgeting.
She loves him, but really, for once could he please not make a scene? She’s trying, for once, to not be labeled as the problem student, but a certain friend’s making that difficult, and it’s hard to tell whether Willow makes up for that.
Xander stands, looking unsure and hunched, a little. “Actually, it’s pretty important,” he corrects gently, voice quiet.
Everyone’s just staring at him, including the teacher, so he begins the babble, trying to fill in the awkward silence. “Well, nothing in this world gets done without your mind. It’s your thought, your determination, that allows anything to be accomplished, so there’s that. And…” He pauses, but he’s getting onto a roll, and his voice is getting louder, and he’s starting to gesture, too. “…And there’s quantum physics. There are some really weird parts about our world that we don’t understand yet. Take Schrödinger’s little thought experiment with the cat in the box. Quantum theory states that observation is everything. The example is putting a cat inside a box and closing the lid. Unless it moves or makes a sound you don’t know whether it’s alive or dead in there. The world exists in a series of mutually possible quantum possibilities. Dead? Alive? Both, until you open the lid and find out for sure. All the possibilities exist until you observe them, and then they solidify into one thing—what you see. It’s not practically different from the normal world that we’re all used to, except that the very act of observing something makes it what it is. Not that we’ve figured out how to make that act of observation work in our favor, or we’d all have a lot better grades than we do now with the same amount of work…” That earns a few chuckles, “…But the very fact that my classmates are all staring at me thinking ‘what a loon, what is he talking about, what’s wrong with him’ makes the reality of me being here, standing in front of everything and babbling about obscure science stuff the reality we’re all living in, rather than some other possible world where I’m being quiet in my seat or not even attending college. So, yeah, thinking and observing are important parts of life.” He abruptly sits down, looking really embarrassed and sheepish.
“Well, who knew you had a brain in that head, Mr. Knight?” Walsh asks snappishly but with a little admiration, and there’s chuckles at that, too. “I hope you continue to use it in my class, and maybe, just maybe, you might earn that A you’re trying to wish into existence.” Willow reaches over and pats Xander’s hand. He’s still looking a little in shock.
“She’s the futurist. I’m just her pet engineer. She just doesn’t want to get her hands dirty,” Xander says, smirking.
Kris rolls her eyes. “Especially when you’ve been working with toxic chemicals and forgot to wash your hands again? I’d say that was pretty accurate.”
He looks panicked again, kissing her on the cheek distractedly and fleeing the room. It takes all of five minutes before Buffy hears, “Hey, I was working with water today!”
“Still a toxic chemical with a high enough dose,” Kris calls back sweetly.
“Hang on, Xander, when you were insisting anyone could be anything online…” Willow realizes, narrowing her eyes at her friend.
He quickly throws up his hands defensively. “Not in the way you think.”
Buffy’s trying hard not to laugh. She really is.
“What does that mean?” Willow demands, hands on her hips.
“I may have posted on several message boards about a problem I was having and the desired specs. No, not the Arc Reactor or Repulsors or anything. I’m not that dumb. And, ‘yes, I realize no alloy exists that performs to the desired specs, that’s why I’m trying to make one’.” He sticks his hands in his pockets and scuffs the sneakers on the ground. “I said that I was an entrepreneur-slash-inventor struggling with a design flaw. Which is true. I may have fudged with my age, just a little. Again, I’m not stupid. I don’t want to end up strongarmed into some government think tank. Or worse.”
They’re in the middle of history, talking about various diseases and how they’ve affected history. Mr. Beach has just put some really disgusting looking overheads on the black plague up on the projector, when Xander screams. There’s a crash.
“I know they’re eww, but that’s a little bit…” Willow begins and then glances over and instantly she’s out of her chair.
That causes Buffy to turn and look, too, and…
And Xander’s on the ground, curled into a ball and clutching at his head. Buffy’s seen people in pain. That’s agony she’s seeing in her friend’s face and it’s scaring her.
“Xander! Xander, what’s wrong?”
He attempts a smile. It’s the ashen ghost of Smiles Past. He can’t uncurl, and he’s shaking.
“Xander!” Willow’s face is ashen, and she’s grabbed one of their friend’s hands in her own. She’s almost squeezing tighter than his death grip.
“Hurts,” he manages, Buffy’s enhanced hearing the only thing that’s picking up his words with how quiet they are. Then, with a gasp of breath that’s almost silent, “…So loud. I can’t…”
If the end of his sentence is ‘take any more’, he’s absolutely right, because he passes out.
His face is still stuck in a grimace, so he’s not peaceful even now.
Buffy stands up abruptly. “I’m getting him to the nurse’s office.” She doesn’t stay to listen to protests. She just walks over to her friend, scoops him up, and walks off at a brisk pace. It’s Xander for goodness’ sake. Xander’s supposed to be goofing around and disrupting class, not hanging limply in her arms like he’s dead.
Bad thought. Very bad. Do not think again.
The Paladin armor is your average ATV. The analogy isn’t perfect but whatever. The Jedi line is light and maneuverable, with your basic body armor and extra-pumped Exoskel, but relies heavily on magic (other than its sophisticated computer system, which Willow designed and programmed). The Xena armors are pretty basic, designed to accentuate Buffy’s natural abilities. Buffy doesn’t end up taking it out much, so it’s also the line with the lowest Mark. Adding too much would be stupid if that meant a steep learning curve in the field when she could die. Warwolf is their killing machine; a scrapper, not a tank. She can’t take damage as well as Paladin or Xena, but she can dish it out, especially with the twin plasma blades.
Xander’s almost dancing at the crosswalk. Willow raises an eyebrow, which only gets a goofy grin in return accompanied by absolutely no explanation.
“Do you really enjoy hearing about TAs all that much?” Buffy’s skeptical, too.
“Specifically hunky ones?” Willow adds, getting a blush from Buffy.
“Hunky and chunky and good for you. Like stew.” He ducks his head at the absolute inanity of the statement, but his face is back up with a goofy grin fairly quickly. “I may have only had time for a cup of coffee this morning.”
“Because you were up all night working?” Willow asks, tapping her foot. She looks a little annoyed that he’s not paying attention, but if Xander was easily distracted before the change he’s even worse now.
“Something like that.” He’s trying not to look smug, but the expression sneaks in there anyway.
The girls resume their conversation, trying to ignore him, but when the automated voice begins the countdown to when they can cross the street, Xander’s attention focuses to a narrow point, and Buffy blinks. He’s not paying attention to them, still, but there’s something. Maybe a cute girl?
“So, Buffy, are you going to…are you not listening now either? Don’t tell me Xander’s got you doing it too, now!” She crosses her arms and huffs.
Xander grins from ear to ear and barely refrains from punching the air, and the short span of half a second in which Buffy is confused about the sudden programming change is quickly replaced with certainty. “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or despair for humanity,” she tells him, and he hums, hands fiddling for a second before he just sticks them in his pockets for lack of anything better to do with them.
“Despairing for humanity’s faster,” he recommends, buzzing with energy and barely not walking away from them as they start to cross.
“That’s really cool, Xander, but…uhm. Isn’t that, you know, illegal?” Willow asks after a moment, and Xander quickly waves that away.
“Says the woman who used to break into federal databases for fun. I’ll be fine.” He can’t contain the grin, so Buffy just rolls her eyes and leans over and musses his hair.
“You’ll always be our Xander. You dork.”
“Ooh! Ooh! That’s me!” he exclaims, and earns a laugh from Buffy. He’s acting exactly like an overexcited puppy and it’s rather adorable. But it’s nice to see that even with the extra intelligence and focused drive there’s still a Xander-adjacent person in there.