“And we here in New York are proud to welcome to our studios, the youngest member of the Ultimates... Surge!!”
Plastering on a grin, Xander stepped out onto the stage of a show he’d already forgotten the name of, striding forward confidently to shake hands with his hosts before carefully taking his seat.
“Thank you for being with us here today,” the woman, Xander thinks her name is ‘Linda’ but he could be wrong, greets him warmly.
“No problem,” he replied cheerily, “You guys have to know by now that I really like being on T.V..”
“Who doesn’t?” The man, ‘Bob’ Xander has named him in his mind, smiles.
“So,” Linda says, attempting to segue into the interview in earnest, “Over the past few days you’ve told the Ultimates’ battle with the Chitauri countless times, so we’re not going to bore everyone by asking you to repeat it.”
“I’m glad,” Xander replies, smile still in place, “Because I’m not sure how many times I can tell it before my teammates realise that I’m omitting a few of my less dignified moments.”
“Well we’d love to hear about those,” Bob told him, as the crowd laughed, “But we’d like to resolve some of the rumors floating around about some of your teammates.”
Xander grinned, opening his arms in invitation, “Hit me.”
“Everyone’s noticed Giant Man’s absence from the team, as well as the Wasp’s injuries,” Linda immediately asked, “And there have been rumors about Captain America arresting Dr. Pym on domestic abuse charges in Chicago the day of the invasion.”
Xander grimaced. Damned vultures already knew the details, they just wanted him to confirm it.
“I’m afraid that I can’t really give you the whole story on that one,” he admitted, “It’s not my tale to tell. But I will say that Janet has since dropped any charges against her husband, and Hank Pym’s membership with the team has been revoked due to certain actions.”
“Oh? And what about her supposed romance with Captain America?” Bob asked, “Is there any truth to the claim that the Wasp was cheating on her husband?”
Xander briefly wondered if he could move fast enough to hit Bob without being seen on camera. He doubted it, so instead he just answered.
“I’m not sure where you heard that,” he said, “But it’s just not true. To my knowledge there is no ‘romance’ between Jan and Steve.”
“Alright,” Linda smiles, “And what about Tony Stark? A few of us have been hearing that the Black Widow has set her sights on our Iron Man.”
“Heh,” Xander chuckled, “I don’t know about that, but those two have certainly shared a few ‘moments’. Once right before the invasion actually.”
“Oh? Well let’s hope for Mister Stark’s sake that she doesn’t live up to her name,” Bob laughed. Linda, Xander and the audience laughed along with him.
“Alright, speaking of the Black Widow,” Linda continued, “What about the other new member of the team. What can you tell us about Hawkeye?”
“Never challenge him to a game of Horse,” Xander answered immediately, drawing a laugh from the audience, “No, but seriously? Clint’s a great guy, and his kids are just awesome.”
“Yes,” Linda agreed, “I saw some pictures of the Barton’s in the paper the other day and I swear those kids are just adorable.”
“So, Surge,” Bob interjected, “Now we’ve heard about everyone else, what about you? Rumor has it this is your last interview for a while.”
“Yes, actually,” Xander agreed, leaning forward, “After the Hulk and the Chitauri attacks back to back, and now that everything’s settled down a bit, Fury’s giving all the Ultimates a week off. Everyone’s doing their own thing. Steve’s catching up with some of his old friends, Jan’s taking the chance to rest and recover from some of her injuries, Tony’s doing... whatever it is he does when he's supposed to be working on his company? I’m honestly not sure.”
“Well,” Xander smiled, “I’m actually going home to visit my family for a few days.”
“Oh, so where will you be?” Linda asked, curiously.
“I’m afraid that I can’t say,” Xander grinned cheekily, “You see unlike Tony and Steve, I’m keeping the mask. I’m not about to go home to Ma and Pa just to find a bunch of reporters bugging them for all my baby pictures.”
“But, by keeping your identity a secret, there are some people who don’t think they can trust you,” Bob pointed out, “And others are actually claiming to be you.”
“Honestly, I don’t really know what to say about that,” Xander admitted, “Although I do have a message for all the ladies in the country. If a guy walks up to you and tells you that he’s me, dump a drink on him and see if he short circuits. If he does, I’ll forgive you. If he doesn’t, laugh.”
“Ah heh heh,” Bob chuckled in mirth, “Well there goes my plan for the evening.”
“But, seriously, Surge,” Linda interjected, “What are you hiding under those glasses?”
Xander paused, looking out over the audience who were shouting their approval, and decided to give a semi-honest answer.
“Keeping my identity a secret is actually a pretty big part of my agreement with S.H.I.E.L.D.,” he admitted, “I mean, you’ve seen Clint’s kids. They’re awesome, and they’re fun and cool... but they have to go to a special school for the children of diplomats just to avoid the paparazzi because of who their father is. And then there’re S.H.I.E.L.D.’s enemies who might go looking for a hostage and yeah, S.H.I.E.L.D. can protect their own, but I don’t want my family to need protection just because they know me. You know?”
Linda and Bob both nodded, albeit reluctantly, before thanking him for the interview.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure,” Xander told them as he stood from his seat, shaking their hands once more.
“Alright,” Bob addressed the audience, “Let’s give a big hand for Surge here. Surge, we hope you enjoy your time with your family and we greatly look forward to seeing you next time.”
Six days after his appearance at the White House, and thirty minutes after his interview with Linda and Bob (who he actually learned were named Hannah and Simon) Xander cheerily bustled around his apartment in the Triskelion, haphazardly tossing the clothes S.H.I.E.L.D. had supplied him with (Xander had lost the privilege to dress in his own clothing after Betty Ross had seen what he deemed casual wear) into his worn duffle bag, packing enough for several days.
He was going back to Sunnydale.
“Fury to Surge: Report to Briefing Room 1, ASAP.”
Xander peered cautiously at the communicator that lay on his dresser, believing hopefully that, if he didn’t respond, Fury would lose interest.
Sighing, he snatched the communicator and activated the link, groaning, “Fine. Hold off the search parties, I’m on my way.”
Dropping the small device disdainfully into his pocket, Xander kicked the ground and left his room, walking, for once, to prolong his freedom.
“What do you want, Fury?” Xander asked, when he rounded the corner to the briefing room, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. commander’s bald head came into view, “I’m supposed to be heading home in half an hour.”
“I know,” Fury nodded his acknowledgment, not standing from his seat, “I just wanted to make a few things clear to you.”
“Like the fact that your friends in Sunnydale are not cleared to know your identity as ‘Surge’,” Fury stated calmly.
“I already know that,” Xander told him, his tone conveying his boredom and irritation, “We’ve been over this. I tell anyone and I end up getting screwed over. Can I go now?”
“So long as we’re clear,” Fury acquiesced, “Just make sure that you report in to our guys in Sunnydale when you get there.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Xander dismissed, “Captain Finn and his men at Lowell House at SU. They know who I am, right?”
“They’re permitted to know your face,” Finn corrected, “They have no idea who ‘Alexander Harris’ is, and you’ll be known only as ‘Surge’ to them, or ‘Alex’ if you’re in a public setting.”
“And if Buffy and Willow run into me hanging with a squad of soldiers and decide to say ‘hi’?”
“You need to report in to Lowell House twice a day,” Fury told him, “And they’ll have a room prepared for you to use for sleeping purposes. So long as you’re careful, there is no reason that Summers or Rosenberg even need to be aware of them.”
“Uh huh,” Xander nodded doubtfully. Fury didn’t know the girls like he did. “So these guys are doing the demon hunting stuff for S.H.I.E.L.D., yeah?”
“That they are,” Fury agreed, “Now get going. Thor’s decided to give you a lift to L.A. and you can hoof it from there.”
“No armed escorts?” Xander asked dubiously.
“I think we can trust you to go to Sunnydale. Just be sure to report to Captain Finn by sunset.”
“Aye aye, Chief,” Xander finished with a salute, before zipping off to grab his duffel bag. He had a magic hammer to catch.
Xander took off towards Sunnydale from L.A. just an hour later, after promising to meet Thor for drinks at some place called ‘Caritas’ in a couple of days, and found himself experiencing an unusual emotion. He was enjoying himself.
For the first time since he had gotten his powers, he wasn’t using them to satisfy Reed’s curiosity, he wasn’t using them to satiate Fury’s demands, and he wasn’t fighting for his life, which was always a plus. He was using his powers purely out of a selfish desire to move faster, and, dodging past cars and motorcycles on the highway as the landscape flew by him, he took the time to enjoy that speed very much.
He was in Sunnydale just an hour before nightfall, making his way to his first pit stop, Lowell House, SU.
Dressed in Ross approved jeans and a shirt, along with a dark wig to hide his follicular situation, and his duffle bag slung over his back, Xander Harris looked right at home on the university campus, with none giving him a second glance as he searched out the fraternity house, keeping his eyes out for his friends as he went.
He soon found the building, just as the sun started to disappear over the horizon, and knocked awkwardly on the door.
“Hello?” A dark-skinned youth with a shaven head asked as he came into view, “Are you the pizza guy?”
“No, not the pizza guy,” Xander said with a grin, his eyes sparking with electricity, “I think you’ve been expecting me though.”
The man in the doorway immediately stiffened, turning back and shouting, “Riley! Get your ass in here!”
“What do you want, Forrest?” Came the reply.
Xander heard the thundering sounds of footfalls as another man ran through the house, entering the doorway with a sudden stop.
The new guy, Riley, who bore a mild resemblance to Steve, stood at attention, “Surge, sir, welcome to Lowell House. Please, come in.”
He and Forrest stepped back, allowing Xander entry.
“I am Captain Riley Finn,” he continued, before motioning to the man beside him, “This is Corporal Gates. If you experience any difficulty whilst you are in Sunnydale, please, do not hesitate to ask us for anything, sir.”
“Uh, sure,” Xander said awkwardly, looking between the two men, both of whom were at least half a head taller than him, “Enough with the ‘sir’ stuff, though. Just Surge is fine... or Alex, really, since I’m supposes to be keeping a low profile.”
“Yes sir,” Riley nodded, motioning to the interior of the house, “If you’ll follow me, we’ll give you a quick tour of the facilities before we show you where you’ll be staying.”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded, “Uh, actually, you mind if we do the tour thing later? It’s getting dark out and there’re some people that I need to see, ASAP.”
Riley nodded, “Our platoon commences patrol at 2330, but there will always be at least two men here to hold down the fort.”
“Great,” Xander nodded, slipping his duffle bag form his shoulder, “You mind if I just leave this here ‘till I get back?”
“Not at all,” Riley told him, taking the bag from Xander, “It will be waiting in your room upon your return.”
“Right...” he accepted, seriously disturbed by the formal manner in which he was being treated, “Okay then, I’ll be back in a couple of hours or so.”
“Wait, Surge,” Forrest interjected, despite Riley’s attempts to shush him, “Is it true that you used to live around here?”
Xander nodded slowly, turning back from the door, “Yeah, Sunnydale, born and raised.”
“And you are aware of the HST presence?” Forrest asked.
Again, Xander nodded, recognizing ‘HST’ as military lingo for demon from Fury’s briefing.
“Well, would you like to join us on patrol this evening?” Forrest asked, “A lot of us here have seen you on the news and we’d love to see you in action.”
“Uh, sure?” Xander accepted awkwardly, before continuing, “I’m, uh, not allowed to use the ‘Surge’ costume when I’m off duty, though-- it’s a marketing thing-- so I guess I’ll need to borrow some camo gear.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Riley told him with a sigh, shooting a glare at his comrade.
“Okay then,” Xander told them as he started to back out of the door, “I’ll see you at, you said eleven thirty? Yeah, then.”
Once outside, Xander very swiftly walked in the direction of the dorm rooms, shuddering. That had been supremely awkward.
Back inside Lowell House, Riley was berating his comrade.
“You can’t just invite people on patrols, Forrest,” he ground out, “Not even S.H.I.E.L.D. sanctioned superheroes!”
“Oh, come on,” Forrest laughed, “Like you don’t want to see if Lightning Boy’s for real?”
“Forrest,” Riley sighed, rubbing his eyes, “The guy’s been up against the Hulk and an alien invasion, right alongside Captain America. Of course he’s for real.”
Forrest snorted, “The guy’s a publicity stunt. He looks good for the cameras and makes nice for the press, but you’ve seen the footage. The Wasp took down the Hulk, all he did was come in at the last minute and kick it while it was down, and Iron Man, Thor and Captain America were the ones doing the heavy lifting during the invasion.”
“Be that as it may,” Riley allowed reluctantly, “He’s on the Ultimates, and you know that S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t put him there just as a P.R. stunt.”
“Whatever, man,” Forrest told him, “But I guarantee you he’ll scream the first time he sees one of our Hostiles.”
“Whatever,” Riley sighed wearily.
Xander walked carefully up to the door of Buffy’s dorm, having gotten the necessary number from, if he were entirely honest, Fury’s database, which reminded him, he really needed to talk to that guy about personal privacy.
He knocked swiftly, and was only mildly shocked at the sheer speed at which the door was answered by a girl with short, dark, hair, who was most definitely not Buffy.
“Hello?” She asked patiently, if oddly perkily.
Xander blinked, “I, um, I’m looking for Buffy Summers. This is her dorm, right?”
The girl looked him over, muttering quietly, “She knows that she can’t just invite guys over, right?”
“Excuse me?” Xander asked, not sure he’d heard.
“Buffy’s not here,” the girl told him plainly, “I’m her roommate, Kathy. Goodbye.”
With that, she slammed the door in his face, hard enough for Xander to be buffeted by a powerful gust of wind.
Xander blinked, somewhat dumbstruck, “I really hope she’s a demon, ‘cause I can already tell that Buffy’s gonna slay her.”
“Big time college girl with the world at her fingertips, and she still comes back to this dump.”
Xander took no small amount of delight in the way that Buffy’s eyes lit up at the sound of his voice.
“Xander!” She exclaimed happily, jumping into her male friend’s arms, “When did you get back?”
“Today, actually,” he smiled, stepping back, “And, seriously, the Bronze? Isn’t this a little ‘high school’ for you now?”
“I kinda needed a little ‘high school’,” she admitted, “College isn’t as fun as the movies suggest.”
“You mean ‘Animal House’ lied to me?” Xander gasped in jest, “C’mon, you can tell me, what happened?”
“Just... college life,” Buffy muttered, “Willow and Oz are taking to it like ducks to water, and I’m taking to it like a duck to... not water.”
“I get the feeling that that’s not all there is to it,” he noted.
“..there was this vamp,” Buffy said, “Sunday or something. She... she beat me, Xander. She was this random, run of the mill, vampire, and... she beat me.”
“So?” Xander asked, honestly perplexed, “You’ll get her next time.”
“I don’t know if I can,” she said sadly, looking away.
“Well, I do,” he told her plainly, “You’re Buffy. You can save the world and still look fabulous at the Prom. You can do anything.”
“You really think that?” She laughed.
“Sure I do,” he said simply, before repeating, “You’re Buffy. And when I’m lost, and alone, drowning in darkness and scared out of my mind, I think ‘what would Buffy do’. That philosophy has kept me alive for years.”
“Yeah?” She smiled.
“Yeah,” he smiled back, “You’re a hero, Buffy. You’re my hero, and there is no way in the Hellmouth that you’re not gonna go out there and kick this little evil wannabe in the keister.”
Buffy’s smile broadened at that, as she lowered her gaze to keep herself from laughing at Xander’s shift from earnest to enthusiastic.
“C’mon,” he assured her, as he began to corral Buffy out of the Bronze, “Let’s grab the others and get going. ‘We’ve got another mystery on our hands’, ‘Thunderbirds are Go’, ‘Avengers Assemble’, the whole routine.”
“Okay,” she frowned, even as her friend tried to shove her out into the night air, “I got the Thunderbirds reference and the Scooby Doo thing, but what was the third one?”
“Just this thing I came up with,” Xander shrugged with a slight grin, “I’m hoping it’s gonna catch on. Now let’s get going, I’m in the mood for a chocolate sunday, and I can’t enjoy one of those until I know that there aren’t any vampires in the area besmirching it’s name of holy chocolatey goodness.”
“Did anyone ever tell you you were insane?” Buffy asked with a laugh.
Xander cocked his head to the side, still grinning, “They made me take a test when I was seven, but when the doc tried to read it all he did was scream in terror.”
“Willow makes this stuff look so much easier,” Xander muttered, scrolling through yet another page of useless information.
He’d managed to convince Buffy to go after Sunday, but first they had to figure out where the Hellmouth she was, and that meant slogging through decades of SU campus files.
“Ooh, ooh, I think I found something!” Buffy cheered, “An old frat house that hasn’t been used since the eighties, right around the same time Sunday died. Perfect for a vamp nest.”
Looking through the glass roof of the out of use fraternity home, Xander and Buffy watched as the group of college-aged vampires went about dividing up the junk they stole from their latest victim.
Buffy pointed out a tallish blonde in the center of the room, “That’s Sunday. She’s mine.”
Xander’s eyes darted between the three other vamps, wondering idly if he could use his power in this situation without Buffy noticing, “And I will very bravely distract the others with my manly screams.”
“Get down to ground level,” she ordered softly, “I’ll grab their attention.”
He nodded his approval. Distracted vampires he could handle.
Xander was, frankly, in awe at the resulting battle.
Buffy had demolished the glass roof on her way in, drawing all eyes in the room to her as she landed and staked one of the minions with Mr. Pointy before it even knew what was happening, diving into an assault on Sunday before the other vamps could do more than drop their jaws in shock.
Xander had ducked into the room at that point, charging through the front door and armed with a trusty axe, he’d lopped the head off of a second minion as it made its way to aid its sire.
The third minion given him some trouble, he would reluctantly admit, but after exchanging a couple of blows he’d managed to stake it in time to watch as Buffy got her groove back, dominating her battle with the vampiress until she stood triumphantly in a halo of the undead creature’s dust.
It was, in a word, awesome.
Parting from Buffy after their victory had been unwelcomed, but, frankly, she needed to get some
sleep before her classes the next morning, and Xander had to get back to Lowell House before eleven thirty. As it was he was barely on time.
This time, when he walked up to the frat house, he didn’t bother knocking. He simply walked right on in, where he found Captain Finn, dressed in camo gear, waiting for him.
“Hey, Riley, right?” He checked, “I’m not late, am I?”
“No,” Finn admitted reluctantly, though he wasn’t exactly early either, “Uh, if you’re still interested in joining us, we’ve found some spare equipment that you can use, sir.”
Xander frowned, “Seriously, will you knock it off with the ‘sir’.”
“With all due respect,” Riley told him with a hint of a smile, “You’ve served alongside Captain America. So, not a chance... sir.”
“Whatever,” he sighed. Somehow he was going to get this guy to quit it.
“C’mon,” Riley nodded deeper into the interior of the house, “The others are waiting for us.”
Xander followed dutifully, and, had he not just spent the past two weeks in the Triskelion S.H.I.E.L.D. base, he would have been thoroughly impressed by the secret elevator hiding behind the mirror, which took the pair of them down into a secret underground laboratory.
“When the hell did Dexter move in?” Xander wondered quietly, before asking, “How the hell did you get all of this stuff down here without anyone realizing that a secret military organization was up to something?”
Riley shrugged, “The caves were already here when we found it, all we had to do was find a less noticeable entry point and load in from there.”
“Director Walsh?” He asked, speaking to a severe looking woman with a short hairstyle, motioning to Xander, “This is Surge. Corporal Gates invited him to join us on patrol tonight.”
The woman, Director Walsh, eyed Xander critically, in a manner that was very similar to Reed’s first take on him, and told Xander exactly how badly this woman would love to get him under a microscope.
“Are you certain that that is wise, Captain Finn?” She asked, “Though experienced, Surge is not trained to handle HST threats, nor to act as a part of a traditional military unit...”
“I’m aware, Ma’am,” Riley told her, “But he’s willing and I figure that it can’t hurt. It might even be a good learning experience for some of the guys, working alongside a superhuman.”
Xander was silent during this exchange, as Walsh eventually chose to allow his presence in the field, and Riley took him to get outfitted.
Several minutes later, he was decked out in military camouflage gear, politely declining an offered firearm.
“I’d probably just shoot myself in the foot,” he’d admitted, “And I needs my feet. Can’t run without my feet.”
With little more trouble, Xander had been told to stick with Finn, Gates and Miller, or ‘Team A’, during the patrol, whilst ‘Team B’ and ‘Team C’ prepared themselves and they had headed out into the open air.
Xander was normally very talkative, but the silent and professional atmosphere generated by Finn and Miller kept him from opening his mouth too much. Mostly, when he did, it was just to answer one of Gates’ questions, which largely revolved around whether or not Black Widow and the Wasp were as hot in person as they were onscreen.
“So, be honest man,” Gates had continued, even as his eyes scanned the grounds for signs of disturbance, “You ever get to get physical with them?”
“Not even slightly,” Xander told him, slightly tightlipped, “I think Tasha’s got her heart set on Stark’s bank account, and Jan and Cap have been making goo goo eyes at each other since the White House.”
“You call him ‘Cap’?” Finn found himself forced to ask, eyes moving away from his surroundings to settle on Xander.
“I call Iron Man ‘Shell Head’,” he grinned, “Besides, it’s hard to keep looking at Captain America with awe after you’ve heard Bucky tell you what happened in Normandy.”
“I really, really, want to hear that story,” Gates told him.
“And you’re not hearing it from me,” Xander replied cheekily, “No way in hell will Steve hurt Bucky, but me? I’d be dead before I hit the ground.”
“Guys, we’ve got a Hostile incoming,” Miller interrupted, gazing intently through a pair of infrared goggles, “Humanoid and room-temp. We’ve got ourselves a haemovore.”
“You... you mean a vampire, right?” Xander checked, with Finn giving him an awkward nod.
“Maybe you should sit back for this one,” Finn told him, “You aren’t familiar with our strategies and there could easily be friendly fire.”
“If you say so,” he shrugged, hand drifting to the stake tucked quietly away in his back pocket.
Xander watched as Finn signaled for Gates and Miller to separate, moving to surround the incoming vampire, taser blasters at the ready.
Xander was subsequently highly disappointed.
Oh, sure, technically the soldiers brought down the vamp with a trio of synchronized blasts, sending the vampire into spasms and, not long after, unconsciousness. No, what bugged him was that they didn’t let him stake it when it was down.
demons?” Xander yelled hysterically, exactly 2.4 seconds after Riley himself had told him exactly that, and his mind had performed a quick systems check to ensure he was hearing correctly, “Are you insane??
You don’t capture vampires, you kill them, nice and quick, before they kill people!! You don’t keep them locked up in cages like animals!”
“Why the hell not?” Gates asked him plainly, eyebrow raised questioningly at Surge’s outburst.
“Animals can be trained
,” Xander asserted strongly, “Animals can be trusted. Demons, on the other hand? Will never stop biting the hand that feeds them, ‘cause, you know what? They’ll prefer your hand to whatever else you give them!!”
And so began Surge’s absolutely disastrous working relationship with the Demon Research Initiative.
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