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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( cross the line )
“Bet.” Xander’s leaning forward, grinning mischievously. “Tasha already has a DNA sample and is sending it to SHIELD to get it analyzed as we speak.”
Tony doesn’t look up from the paper. “I see that, and I’ll raise you that Mr. Eyepatch won’t believe the results and send the ferocious assassin to nab another sample from you just to see.”
Xander frowns. “Damn. Curse you and your extensive gambling knowledge.”
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 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.
“Hey, Pepper,” Tony says, and she’s hovering on the edge of drunk but surprisingly has yet to go search out a warm body for the night. “You think your beard will be salt and pepper?”
She sniggers to herself, but there’s something quiet and lost about her at the moment, and after only a few months in her employ it’s vastly disconcerting, because he’s never seen her with all of her masks removed.
“Excuse me?” He raises an eyebrow, plays along. It’s what he’s paid to do—up to a point, anyway. Also, he’s used to Tony starting conversations midsentence and expecting everyone else to be on the exact same page. He’d thought it’d been a trick to test his patience like a number of her other habits, but instead found that she does the same with everyone, from reporters to senators. She usually doesn’t realize she’s left anyone she’s addressing far behind conversationally.
“When you’re older and I’m dead,” she states bluntly, and he blanches, barely preventing the glass in his hands—picked up more for a need to fit in than a desire for alcohol—from falling and breaking all over the expensive carpet, drink and all.
“Are you all right, ma’am?” She hates the ma’am. Well, sort of. From anyone else, it earns a glare, but from him she’ll joke about ancient movies and gentlemen but she won’t throw a fit, which is usually synonymous with permission. (He’ll do things without permission anyway. Like force her to attend meetings with a hangover. He will spare some of his ancient Aunt’s remedy then, which while it makes her face twist into the most amusing expressions also makes her not feel like she wants to strangle somebody, which is generally bad for business.)
“Oh, now, probably. My liver, maybe not, but I’ve got years yet for that.” She takes another sip from the flute, staring pensive and subdued over the town. “I just…you know how I am. What I do. I can’t hope to keep it up forever. Someday,” she states solemnly, nodding in the direction of a few fireworks that appear to be dazzling appreciative guests, “I’ll be one of those. Brilliantly engineered, exploding to the awe and wonder of the nation watching, and my legacy will only last long enough for the afterimage to fade on the inside of the watchers’ eyelids.” She takes another sip, hands shocking, and it’s at this point that he realizes, My God, Tony Stark actually is human. He has sudden, breathtaking compassion for his boss that he didn’t have just a day before.
“You say that,” he responds dryly, trying to ignore the pain the thought of her lying dead anywhere is suddenly causing, “…but if you in your lab is any indication, you’re like the phoenix. How you keep surviving all those explosions you cause is nothing short of a miracle.”
There’s a breathless few moments before she’s beaming and has attached herself to him, like a limpet.
He begins to walk as she sways by his side. “Come on, Tony, let’s get you to bed.”
“Is that an innuendo?” she asks, the yawn spoiling the leer.
He shakes his head, doesn’t bother replying, summons her personal doctor to make sure she doesn’t have alcohol poisoning, and grabs one of his novels for fun as he settles beside her bed. “Too bad,” is the last thing he hears, soft and lonely, and he pretends for the longest time that he never heard her say that. It’s just easier that way.
Xander makes a startled noise at the fridge, but when he turns around he’s grinning ear to ear. “Jarvis can show you the replay,” he announces, smug, and Tony instantly pulls up a screen and watches with enthusiasm as Xander fumbles and then catches everything he’s taking out of the fridge to make a sandwich.
“If you two are done patting each other on the back,” Pepper says in the ‘trying to be stern and not smile at you’ voice, “…don’t you think maybe you should fill Rhodey in?”
Xander grins a grin that Rhodey is infinitely familiar with. It haunts his nightmares, mostly because he’s reminded that he’s going to have to deal with the fallout however fun having a friend like Tony is. “Pep, honey, that implies that we’ll ever stop.”
Rhodes makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. “Tony. Tell me you didn’t clone yourself.”
“I didn’t clone myself,” Tony says promptly, but looking at the two of them and the way they’re acting… “I didn’t,” he repeats, with added emphasis, and now Rhodey’s feeling the stirrings of anger.
“Magic,” the younger Tony explains carefully, fetching a blanket for him. Apparently he’s worried about shock, which is a realistic and unusually aware thing for him to be worried about. “I’m not entirely Tony. He was good enough to fill you in on Lokester, right?”
Tony snorts into his coffee but nods. Rhodey nods too.
“I’m actually a guy with my own life. I’ve just got Tony’s, too. And I figured out how to visit Tony in an alternate universe and give him advice to try to make his life better even though he ignores it because I’m just awesome like that.” It’s a show. Knight (which might not be a pseudonym Jarvis found to protect the guy after all) is exaggerating his own ego, just for the sake of this. Which is convincing, and it’s not the only thing.
Alright, if he’s forced to be honest—if anyone can figure out how to travel dimensions, it’s Tony. Which is worrying, but it also makes him proud in a weird way.
He sighs. “And now I’ve got two of you on my hands.”
Pepper glances at the two, eyebrows raised. “He’s taking this better than I did.”
It takes Pepper a minute to realize that the two are playing a drinking game. Without the drinking. Instead, they appear to be eating a child’s dream version of an Easter basket in the middle of summer.
“The army, specifically a General Ross,” Tony says, and reaches over to grab a candy bar.
“Unfortunately…no.” Xander lets his fingers run over a few choices of candy before selecting one. “The whole Initiative Project, remember? Particularly the part about getting kidnapped? And the Frankenstein’s monster?”
Tony’s face makes the expression she’s become familiar with, the one that says ‘that’s awful but I’m going to try to pretend it isn’t to make my brother feel better’. It morphs into a thinking one. “The government?” He grabs a handful of M&Ms, looking hopeful.
“Again, no. I’m still not sure what they’ve done with Marcie, and they’ve been probing. Not like they can get through, I’ve got a seed AI, myself, and Willow, she of the ‘I’m going to break into the Pentagon again because I’m bored’…not that that’s weird, but. Still. I do not trust them.” Xander squints then follows Tony’s lead.
“What are you doing?” she asks, when it becomes apparent that the two aren’t going to notice her.
“Oh, hey, we’re playing ‘Whose Life is Worse’ with candy and then tinkering on the sugar high ‘till we drop,” Xander says, cheerful, and Pepper’s heart drops.
“I feel like I should step in.” This probably isn’t helping them. Or maybe it’s serving like a psychiatry consultation that Tony never goes to as recommended. It’s hard to tell.
Tony shrugs and pats the floor, grinning. “You can at least sit with us. Unless you’re busy, in which case, carry on.”
She sighs, reluctant to leave the two, but then her work phone rings and she has to answer it, given that Tony hasn’t. She waves, and the two wave back, looking casual and unhurt.
( In Pepper's case, though, they tend to be people hurting. )
( what, you think Xander doesn't wander off and try to get therapy sessions from random people? )
( Who's she kidding? It's Tony; it's anything but simple. )
( don't let me go )
“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.
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.
The way to get her to actually work, she discovers, is to just let it happen and not comment on it (more than firm reminders), or to outright offer her some sort of bribe if she’ll actually get her homework done. Brownies are surprisingly effective.