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.
“Whose suit is this?” Krista asks, and blinks as the bouncy, happy Knight disappears between one second and the next.
She turns. He looks like he’s going to cry.
“She never got to wear it. She never got to wear it. I never even got to tell her I’d made it. It was going to be a surprise.”
Kris hopes, honestly hopes, that he’s not talking about the dead fiancée, but she’s not going to ask further. The tabloids are already making enough of a mess of his private life.
“Kris, if you’re trying to spare my feelings, don’t worry about it.” He’s hesitant and pained and it’s hard for him to talk about this, but he’s trying to get something important out. “I just—she is a different person now, and I want to make it up to her. Seriously. I’d like her if I met her now for the first time. I just…can’t do it personally. And I delegate so much to you, and maybe it’s not fair to ask you of all people to do this, but…”
She doesn’t respond for several long seconds, instead electing to continue to work on her KnightPad (it’s catchier than Knight Tablet, Xander argues, and she just rolls her eyes because it’s not like he’s marketing tablets yet even though he could; he has a weird sense of fair play) and then eventually nods when the silence begins turning to hurt. “I’ll do it. I’ll try to think about her just as another Slayer, because if I think about who she actually is and what she did I’ll get mad and she wouldn’t like me when I’m mad. And I won’t tell you about it, just that it’s happening.”
She giggles as he surprise hugs her from the back, arms snaking under hers. “You’re in trouble if I break this. I don’t care that you can fix it in an afternoon. I’ve got important files on there.”
“I can restore them.” He leans in and presses a kiss to her ear, waggling his fingers goofily. “Ma-gic,” he whispers, and she rolls her eyes.
Alexander Jessie Knight is dying.
At any other time, the media would be having a field day. Because Knight is news. Because he just quietly burst onto the scene, to the point he makes Athena jokes. And once he was there, well.
The world apparently can’t get enough. They just love the schizophrenic nature he has behind the camera, the fact that sometimes you might get Xander, joking and flirty but quiet and respectful and humble, and sometimes you might get Tony (not that the world understands that) who loves the camera and shows off and does all the stunts that people read tabloids for. Everyone always wants the newest Knight tech. The stock shares only continue to grow in value. He wins so many awards, is the focus of so many articles. Knight Innovations was declared one of the best places to work worldwide in all years since its creation. He and Kris were declared one of greatest Power Couples of the Age.
Admittedly, it’s probably an unhealthy obsession for Andrew to be reading every single thing and have his picture of Xander shirtless on his wall but he’s pretty sure Xander knows and hasn’t yelled at him yet, so he figures that’s permission.
Point is, usually, the world would care. Especially since happens to be at the same time that Miss Chase has died.
But the thing is, Miss Chase has died. Everyone’s dying. It’s the end of the world, and Andrew knows enough magic to know that they don’t have much chance.
But he’s selfish, and he’s pretty certain he loves Xander, and if anyone can engineer their way out of this situation, it’s Xander, so he’s putting all his hopes with Xander.
They’d been working on nanotech. It’s not completed yet. May have side effects or even kill Xander. But given the choices, it’s a chance of death, which is better than the certainty of death.
It had happened months ago. Xander had gotten wounded by a demon lord. It hadn’t mattered, not right away. It became obvious about a week ago that there was poison or a curse or something slowly eating away at Xander’s brain. At least, it had been slow, but something seemed to trigger it. The first clue was his boss collapsing in the middle of the building, hands to his head, but Knight was prone to migraines, so it hadn’t been as worrying as it should’ve been. Since then, his condition had deteriorated significantly, to the point he was now in a coma.
“Sorry about this,” he says, and then injects the nanites into Xander’s blood, and given the sudden screaming and twisting it hurts, but Andrew can’t bring himself to feel guilty.
And then the proximity alarms go off.
“Star?” he asks cautiously, having never given the same protocols as, for example, Kris.
Instantly the AI answers, worried. “Yes, Mr. Wells.”
“You should probably suit him up. I’ll go deal with the visitors.”
He’s sure she notices his voice shake. She’s an AI with the ability to analyze every single tremor. She doesn’t call him on it. “I’ll get Ranger One ready for a house party.”
When the world explodes like a supernova and then collapses down into the dark, Xander’s still unconscious. He only wakes later, with Willow kneeling above him. “This isn’t your world,” she explains before he can even say anything, and he just smiles vacantly at her and yawns.
“Welcome back,” Oz says quietly, and he nods back, super happy. He really hadn’t been kidding about stealing the werewolf, minus the fact that he’d at the very least respect relationships and wouldn’t have dared.
“The multiverse is in danger,” Giles says somewhat distantly as he walks into the room. “I’m gathering a team to help save it.”
And that’s just begging for a specific response. Unfortunately, he has no cigars handy, but he can at least say the requisite line. “I love it when a plan comes together.”
That gets a mad grin from Willow and amused eyes from Oz, and it’s almost enough to distract him from the fact that he’s hearing Star’s explanation of his world ending without him in his head.
“This is unacceptable!” Kris glances up and her heart sinks. That’s her youtube channel on her boss’s Knightphone.
“But…I don’t really want to delete it,” she mutters. She really likes the job, but…
“Delete it? Whoever said anything about deleting it? That, my dear Miss Chase, would be a travesty. I’m wondering why you thought it was acceptable to conceal this. This is fun.” He’s beaming, but she can tell he’s been up longer than he should since he looks slightly manic.
“O-okay…” she responds, not sure what else to say.
Unfortunately, he’s picked now to stop being oblivious. “You’re freaking out,” he observes, frowning and leaning in slightly. “Why are you freaking out?” And then he just doesn’t move.
She tries to figure out how to say it, but then his gaze unexpectedly softens. “Are you worried about not having enough time for it? Because I can definitely—”
She sighs. “I’m great. Weekends and after I get done are just fine. It’s a hobby, not my source of income. I did leave a lot of my collection in the States, but—” she quickly raises a hand to forestall any of the offers for him to ship it or re-buy it, because her boss is weird and generous and she knows he would, “—but that’s just fine. With what you pay me even with a London apartment—”
“Flat,” he interrupts helpfully and smiles innocently when she glares. She’s not sure what’s up with him right now but she’d been doing work and after the initial shock she’s starting to get annoyed.
“Even with a London apartment, I can still afford what I need and what I want. So usually, this job is worth it.” She narrows her eyes even further. “Usually.”
He grins. Usually it’s also nice to see him smile, because he’s friendly and a nice boss, but she doesn’t particularly care for this one, because it’s the kind of smile that’s matching the rest of his annoying mood. “Don’t worry,” he pats her shoulder, “…I’ll add a bonus for today.” And then he wanders off, leaving her annoyed and restless and wondering how she’s going to be able to concentrate on her work for the rest of the day.
“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.
Kris is the only one who notices he redoes the HUD after playing Dead Space. The colors actually change with the suit’s integrity. It may be goofy but it’s user friendly and she appreciates it.
“So, I’ve been told by a little sparrow that you’ve started wearing those deadly heels for me. Any truth to that rumor?” Knight appears behind her, putting a hand on her shoulder and kissing her hair before he moves past.
“I-I-what?” She hadn’t been expecting him.
“Well, if it’s the truth, I should let you know that I couldn’t care less. If people asked me who Superwoman was, I’d just smile and zip my lips for secret identities’ sake, but I’d know she’s right here in front of me. You could show up in jeans and a t-shirt tomorrow and I’d still know the truth.” He leans against the wall, crossing his legs and beaming.
She tries not to, but she can’t stop herself from smiling in response at his utter silliness. “That’s really cheesy.”
“Good for me, I love cheese. And I’ve got plenty of it. Not even lying, here, that’s a literal one. I got a plate of tasting cheeses waiting for us out on the veranda and I kinda don’t want to eat all of it on my own. I could. Cheese is awesome. But I’m pretty sure my stomach wouldn’t be thanking me later.”
“You are such a dork!” she says, grinning, but pulls off the shoes and joins him, slipping her hand into his.
“And you somehow didn’t notice that before now. I’m kinda worried about your observational skills,” he jokes, but pulls her closer, hand warm in his, and she could not be happier.
Keeping up is unbearable. How do normal people do it, seriously?
Xander keeps shooting her concerned looks. Eventually, when their hosts are a little busy figuring out the whole food situation as they stare out at the magnificent view to the water, he leans a little closer and whispers, “Are you okay? You’re a little wobbly today.”
She forces a smile despite the fact that she’s getting the urge to tear off those shoes and smash them into a million pieces against the railing. “I’m fine. Just new heels, breaking them in.”
He looks utterly confused. “But you don’t wear heels.”
“I’m trying something new,” she insists, and is slightly disappointed when he actually takes that as an answer and doesn’t compliment her on them. Their host comes and interrupts.
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.
It’s Willow that finally manages to get his head out of his ass and actually ask Kris out. It’s probably that that gives him permission to mess with his friend’s love life later. He’s already made a dozen designs for Kris’s suit, but he’s not bringing any of them up, not until she asks.
Kris and Willow have had a serious conversation about how Xander is a wuss who needs to man up and get over his ‘everyone I love dies’ issues. Because while that’s a thing, it’s also hurting him, stopping him from living his life, and he and Kris are already a couple in everything but the kissing, and he’s lonely, and neither one of them likes seeing him unhappy like this.
The three are hanging out. Xander and Kris are watching some video game let’s player that apparently both of them have watched, since they’re joking around and making some sort of references Willow misses. She needs to do more computer stuff. She’s been neglecting that recently with all the magic.
They’re both working on some paperwork for Knight Innovations. Kris is enjoying the budget-sheets and Xander is teasing her for being a nerd.
There’s the sweet, soft look in his eyes and tone that he uses for Willow. For people that he really loves. But there’s something more vulnerable there.
She knows not to take his teasing seriously. She’s not offended at all, teasing back, quiet and sweet and patient. Everyone in the entire room knows that he loves her.
Willow leans over as he’s daydreaming, staring with soft eyes in Kris’s direction. “If you don’t kiss her right now I will."
He recoils and nearly falls over. “What?”
“Anyone who doesn’t know you thinks the two of you are dating. You’d rather deal with my plan than Dawn’s. I’m looking out for you.”
He looks at her, gulps, then at looks at Kris.
And then he gets that look of determination in his eyes, and she giggles.
He scoots a little closer and leans in. Krista isn’t even paying attention. He gives her a sweet peck on the cheek and backs off quickly, cheeks dusted with pink.
She has the largest smile. It’s cute. She scooches back and snuggles into him. He swallows again, but looks happier than he’s been in a while even if he’s not smiling. That soft embarrassed look on his face is just as precious.
“I want a suit,” Kris announces during a meeting of the ITK portion of Knight Innovations. It had absolutely nothing to do with whatever her boyfriend and Andrew had been discussing seconds before, but now she has his complete and undivided attention.
“Uhm, Xander, are you sure that’s…” Andrew begins, and Xander rolls his chair away from the Head of Testing Department (aka the Magic Department for those In the Know) and resident Head Chef, eyes wide.
“I am not being your average superhero girlfriend,” she states firmly.
Xander smiles slightly. It’s a touch worried, but the way his eyes narrow at her, he’s already seeing the possibilities, drawing up schematics in his head. If he hasn’t already. …Given that he’s Knight, he probably has at least five different possibilities already in his head and is just pulling them up mentally. “And see, me? This is a person in a relationship who is not being a man with no sense of self-preservation.” He blinks. “That sentence made no sense, but y’know. In terms of suit design, what were you thinking?”
She beams, then frowns. “Well, I already have possible names. Warwolf or Sky Cavalry. My favorite cards, you know.”
He nods, unphased, but she can see Andrew and the others gaping. Which just makes her puff up a bit. “I like those names. And from that…Probably weapons-heavy, huh?”
“Please,” she asks, blinking her eyelashes as she leans against the table.
He laughs at her even as the others look disturbed and leans in to kiss her. It’s sweet, but he’s definitely distracted, and she’s anything but mad about that.
“You’re not going out in the field until you get a pass from Lehane,” he says offhandedly, already grabbing budget reports, turning them over, and doodling on the other side.
“Faith?” she asks, but he cuts her off.
“Yeah. I can’t think of anyone else who would push you more. And we need to know what you can do. What you’re capable of. It’s the only way to make sure you can keep up.”
When Xander comes to pick her and her friend up, she can tell something’s different. He’s grinning at her, nothing held back, but his mind is a million miles away. He’s just vacantly grinning and humming under his breath as he slips his hand in hers and begins walking. He does take a moment to admire her outfit and say “Hello, beautiful.” It’s not even flirting. It’s too quiet and honest for that.
The meeting must have gone well.
She grins at her friend. “It’s quiet. Appreciate it while you can.”
Xander pauses from stealing from Kris’s smoothie to pout. “I’m not that bad.”
“Uh, yeah, he is,” Henry laughs, taking a handful of Xander’s popcorn while he’s distracted. “If he’s not talking, he’s got music or a program on.”
Xander shrinks, and she can see the instant her teasing went too far. “If you didn’t like it, why didn’t you say anything?”
“I love you as you are, Xander. That’s not to say that I’d ever want you to stop improving, because I love the man you are and the man you could be and no true friend would ever ask you to stay stagnant and not get better as a human being, nevermind someone you’re dating. I’m the one who seeks you out in your office to do paperwork, remember? It just makes me appreciate the quiet more. Really, I should be thanking you.” She snuggles up against his arm, and he blushes slightly, which is extra special because it’s actually decently hard to get him to blush. Probably because he’s grown up with many versions of Tony Stark in his head, so he’s no doubt gotten used to it. Still, he’s grinning.