Title: Hero on the Hellmouth
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Category: B:tVS/Independence Day (ID4)
Summary: And Xander had thought *aliens* were a lot to get his mind around...
Prompt: tth100 #13 - Winter; twistedshorts marathon #1
Spoilers: B:tVS mid-"Welcome to the Hellmouth" (1.1); Independence Day (1996). Follows "No Victory Dance" and "Buffy Summers, Alien Slayer".
"I'm okay," Xander breathed, sprawled at the feet of the unknown golden goddess walking up the steps to Sunnydale High School. "I feel good."
She smiled at him a little, tucking her hair behind her ears-- and then the recognition hit him. He knew those eyes! She wasn't just some transfer student he hadn't met before; she was Agent Winter! He'd seen her on the news just the night before, being interviewed along with Captain Hiller-- the guy who'd actually blown up the alien mothership-- and the tall geeky guy who wrote the virus that had brought down the aliens' shields. The three of them were the public face of the task force currently hunting down the aliens who'd survived the July 4 battles, bona fide heroes, not the kind of person you just ran into in your hometown.
Fortunately the immediate arrival of Willow, stepping over his legs, distracted him from any prolonged gaping or awkward commentary. "Willow! You're so very much the person that I wanted to see!" he exclaimed with relief, climbing back to his feet.
"Oh really?" his best friend said, grinning at him, as they began to walk into the school.
He babbled something about math, mind still stuck on Agent Winter, and Willow babbled something back about the library. By that time, the blonde who may or may not have been the first advanced human being openly acknowledged to be employed by the government (though where there was one, there had to be others, kind of like cockroaches, and suddenly his comic books were looking more and more like exaggerations instead of complete imagination) had disappeared out of sight, and Jesse had joined them.
They quickly established that no one knew anything about the new girl, not even rumors of a transfer student, so Xander shared his theory with them. They didn't believe him, of course; they both laughed it off, even Jesse who'd caught a glimpse of her. But then, Xander had had a far closer look, and she wasn't exactly in the camo gear she always wore on TV. Not to mention, those boots they usually showed her in must have had serious heels, because man, he could practically fit her in his pocket.
She looked a lot younger in student-wear, too, maybe their age-- though he was sure that couldn't be possible. Or could it? The whole reason the government talked about her at all (at least, according to Willow) was to boost morale, after so many billions of people had died and so many cities had been blown up and the war *still* wasn't over. The president wanted people to know that the problem was being taken care of, and that they really did have someone on their side who could kick the bogeyman's butt. He'd pushed for all the schools in safe, undamaged areas to reopen, requested that people return to work wherever they were able, and most Americans, trusting in what he told them, had done as he asked. Would everyone still feel safe if they knew their current savior was, like, sixteen?
Willow and Jesse saw the truth for themselves a few minutes later, though, when they spotted her coming out of the principal's office. A girl bumped into Agent Winter and made her drop her bag, and strange-looking old books spilled out on the floor along with sheaves of notes, something that looked like schematics, and a few pointy sticks that were too big to be hair accessories. Both of Xander's friends froze and stared like they'd seen a ghost, but Xander, already over his inital shock, dove in to help.
He got a longer look at her as he helped her scoop her things back into the bag, and was struck all over again at how *gorgeous* she was. But of course she was gorgeous; she was a superhero, whom he was actually helping, whose belongings he was actually *touching*...
Hurriedly, Xander spoke up, hoping to deflect his nervousness and make a better impression than he had already with the botched skateboard stunt on the stairs. "Can I have you?" he asked.
It wasn't until her lovely foreheard started wrinkling up in confusion that he realized he'd managed to put his foot in his mouth again, and he chuckled, wincing. "Duh. Can I help you?"
She smiled, but only said, "Thanks."
Desperate to make further conversation-- to at least get her name-- Xander babbled onward. "I don't know you, do I?"
"I'm Buffy," she replied, then looked away as her smile waned. "Buffy Summers. I-- I don't actually go here, I'm being tutored, but I'll be visiting the library sometimes."
*Secret identity, check,* Xander thought to himself. Though how she expected to *keep* it that way when her face was constantly being used as a publicity tool, he couldn't imagine. "Xander. Is, is me. Hi," he said, tripping over his tongue as he tried to introduce himself in return.
"Um, thanks," she said, studiously gathering her things.
He held his tongue as he finished helping her. She probably got hit on all the time by strange guys; what made him think he was anything special? She was *famous*, and he had nothing going for him. When she had the last item tucked away, one of those pieces of wood that looked a lot like some kind of stake, he took a deep breath and bid her farewell. "Well, uh, maybe I'll see you around... maybe in the library... since I... uh... go here."
"Great!" she replied as she shouldered the bag and stood, favoring him with another smile. "It was nice to meet you." The smile didn't touch her eyes, but Xander's heart nearly stopped all the same, dazzled by white teeth, soft, tanned skin, and a hint of dimples.
Every day after that encounter, every time he had a few minutes free he swung by the library just to see if she was there. Not that he'd interrupt her or bother her or anything-- he just wanted to see her again. Willow teased him about it, but he could tell she was pleased, since he started actually doing his homework in there, too. It had the added bonus of keeping him busy after school, too, and the librarian guy always seemed so pleased to have students actually looking at his books. He was kind of cool, in an old, tweedy, Alfred kind of way, and let Xander hide his stash of Twinkies behind the counter. (They were a lot safer there than in his pack or his locker these days; sweets of all kinds were pretty scarce since the manufacturing plants in a lot of the major cities had been blown up in the initial invasion).
Two weeks or so passed without sign of Buffy, and Xander had almost given up on her, when one day he arrived at the double doors to the sound of arguing voices.
"...don't know what you think I can do about it," a female voice was saying as he put his hand on the smooth wood of the door. A familiar voice; he was sure it was her. "You know how busy I am," she continued. "If the Watcher's Council wanted their precious Slayer to be out killing vampires and demons instead of hunting aliens, they never should have told the President about me."
"Be that as it may..." the librarian, Giles, began.
"Find someone else to cover the Hellmouth," she said, in short, clipped tones. "Someone who can be here all the time, because I sure can't. I barely get to see my Mom as it is. I'll keep bringing you my reports, and I'll help out if there's an apocalypse, but this penny ante stuff? Really not my gig."
She stormed out of the library, nearly clobbering Xander in the face with the door, and passed him by without noticing. He watched her go, then turned and left himself; he didn't think he wanted to face Giles just yet, with everything he'd overheard still rattling around in his brain.
He didn't know what to make of this talk of vampires and demons and apocalypse, but it certainly would explain an awful lot about the weird things that happened around town. If aliens were real, why not the terrors that flapped in the night? Maybe Willow would be able to help him make sense of it all.