Author's Note and disclaimer: Marvel Comics and Joss own their respective characters. As you'll find out, very soon, this story is a gender bender. I'm not getting gross or anything. There's a reason for it that you'll find out in a later chapter. Any relationships Xander is involved in will be strictly PG-13 and won't involve men.
This takes place a little bit in the past for the Marvel universe Pre-Civil War, and I take a few events a little fast and loose, so if you are looking for Marvel canon then you are in the wrong story.Chapter One
Three months; it really doesn’t seem to be that long when you see it from the outside looking in. However, from my point of view, it’s been almost a lifetime.
I remember waking up one morning, being drafted, along with Willow and Buffy, into escorting groups of kids around while they trick-or-treat. The three of us went to the new costume store where I purchased what I thought was a pretty realistic Captain America outfit for twenty bucks. It turns out I was wrong.
One minute I’m standing there, sorting through the chocolate booty of the kids I was in charge of, handing out praises and offering advice for better booty grabbage, and the next I’m in a fight for my life in a world that I had once thought only existed in comic books.
Oh, and I’m a girl.
The costume wasn’t Captain America, it was American Dream. Apparently they’re real easy to confuse since the look for the two characters are exactly the same.
So I took a back seat to Shannon Carter’s presence in my head while the whole thing went down. It really sucks to hear, see, and feel what was going on and not be able to do a damn thing about it. The thing was, while Shannon had a real shield, she was in my body, which was less than athletic at the time.
Let’s just say that the night ended with her getting my neck ripped out by a vampire and leave it at that. Thinking about what happened just makes me lose focus, and if I’m ever getting back to where I belong then I needed to concentrate on the here and now.
“Do you even care about the friends you left behind?”
I slammed my shield into his and dropped into a crouch to sweep his feet out from under him.
“Pathetic,” he spat at me after leaping into the air and tucking himself into a forward roll over the top of my head.
This was something that I had come to expect. Before he had a chance to set a single foot on the ground, I had spun around and flung a stun disk from my wrist shooter at him. Then I tumbled away to reset myself.
The disk ricocheted off his shield and I grit my teeth. Defeating the real Captain America in one on one combat was proving more than impossible.
“Anticipate my moves, Harris. If you can’t do any better than that, then you’re a dead woman.”
It may have been true, but him calling me a woman set me off every single time. The rage boiled within me. Having my masculinity stolen from me by a cursed costume had turned me from a wisecracking teenager that fetched donuts for the Slayer, into anger-filled teenager. I couldn’t help it, and Cap knew it. That’s why he was taunting me.
“Shields and weapons down,” he ordered. I complied.
Before I had fully unbuckled my wrist shooter, he was running at me. I crouched to study his shoulders in the half-second he allowed me and then lurched to the right, swinging my left foot forward. It wasn’t enough to take him out by a long shot, but I did clip his arm, which threw off his momentum slightly.
“Better, little girl.”
My face was heating up at the insults, but I knew if I let it get the best of me then I was toast. Setting myself low to the ground, I waited for his next move. This time he came at me slower, but still quite quickly for a normal person. I swept at his legs again, but instead of waiting for his jump, I completed the circle and came up with every ounce of power I had into a left-handed uppercut, which actually made solid contact with his lower jaw.
Cap flew five feet backward and landed with a resounding THUNK!
He rolled with it and without a second thought he was to his feet. “Excellent, finally!”
He blinked and I saw his jaw shift. “Let’s call it there.”
My heart was pounding at a steady pace as I reached up and slipped the face-mask off of my uniform so I could wipe off the light sheen of sweat that coated my forehead.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Cap nodded. “I’ve been punched harder and walked away. Don’t worry about me. Go ahead and hit the showers. Meet up in the strategy room and we’ll review the fight.”
It was the same thing he said, day after day since I’d committed myself to returning to Sunnydale. Three straight months of solid training, pushing myself further than I’d ever thought possible. Weights, cardio, gymnastics, hand to hand, weapons, you name it and I spent ten to twelve hours a day learning it. The ten hour days were mostly when I wound up getting laid out by one of the residing Avengers. Thankfully those times were becoming fewer and fewer.
At the beginning it was touch and go. American Dream or Shannon Carter, take your pick, was one of their own. She was an honorary Avenger from another Earth, a different dimension. The same thing happened to her that happened to me. One minute she was having a strategy session with a few of the superheroes and the next she was flat on her back, catatonic. Less than twenty minutes later the side of her neck erupted, looking like it had been torn out by a set of nasty fangs.
The damage was too severe, and she was going to die.
Captain America was the one that volunteered to help, just like he always does. However this time, it wasn’t in the traditional way. This time Shannon needed something other than a few stitches and a couple pints of regular blood transfused into her system. She needed something that would bring her back from the brink; his blood.
The hot shower worked the kinks out of my back and eased the bruises that would never form because of the gift Steve Rogers gave me. The first week after my appearance at the Avengers Compound was the most telling from that gift.
From what they’d told me, Shannon was a seemingly average five-foot-seven girl at the peak of her her physical abilities. Because of the Super Soldier Serum in Steve’s blood and the blast of Gamma rays soon thereafter, I’d healed up nicely leaving only two scars at my throat and I’d grown to six-foot-two inches in height and packed on muscles that most guys would envy for themselves. I was a freaking Amazon.
They’d brought in several specialists to find out what happened. The doctors said I was still Shannon Carter, the mystics not so much. It was the Scarlet Witch that confirmed the residue of Chaos Magic I was drenched in. It was Agatha Harkness that confirmed it couldn’t be reversed. And it was Steven Strange that told them I could be trusted. He was also the one that informed me that he would return me to my original dimension when I was ready.
The Avengers didn’t have a great deal of contact with American Dream. Being from a different Earth herself, she was only an occasional visitor that had proved herself to the them in a fight that she made herself a part of.
Perhaps that’s why they were helping me as much as they were. I’d explained about what the last year had been like on the Hellmouth, ever since I’d met Buffy and staked the vampire version of my best friend. Just like that moment, I’d changed. I’d become one of her sidekicks, along with Willow. This time it was more than personal. Whatever magical curse turned everybody into their costumes or whoever was responsible for the occurrence had to be stopped.
Buffy had more than likely taken care of the problem, but Steve stopped me and made several logical and tactical suggestions that halted my plans for returning immediately.What if?
was what he’d said.What if
Buffy was dead? She’d been turned into a sixteenth century woman with no knowledge of her Slayer powers. What if
Willow was still a ghost? What if
I showed up and demons were running rampant. I’d only get myself killed needlessly.
He suggested I receive, at the bare minimum, training that would see me through until I could make a rational decision.
What would you do if Captain America was standing in front of you telling you this? Being the die-hard comic geek that I was, I took his advice.
After slipping on a pair of workout shorts, sports bra, socks and crosstrainers, I grabbed the accompanying warm-up jacket and headed downstairs.
Steve was waiting for me at the head of the table reviewing several angles of our session on a number of plasma screens along the walls. I didn’t bother with asking how I did. I already had a good idea. Better, but still a lot to work on.
“You were better,” said Steve. “But there’s still a lot to work on.”
I smirked as I sat down and he pointed out my flaws and a few things I did right.
“I was impressed that you held back at my taunting.”
I closed my eyes and rubbed at them. “I’m coming to grips with the whole sex change-o-rama. I’m still angry about it, but I’m dealing.”
That’s what my assigned therapist told me. Yeah, they insisted on that one. Two hours every day, whether I wanted it or not. After three months, I’d finally gotten to the point where I could say that I was angry
at being jammed into a woman’s body, and I was angry
at whatever or whoever was responsible for making it happen, and that I was angry
at having to wait before returning and letting my friends know that I was still alive, albeit in a much more boobafied body.
After the first month of screaming and crying -- oh, don’t get me started on the whole female hormones making me cry thing -- I’d lessened it to the occasional rant, and now at the end of the third month, I’d focused that anger into being very productive.
In other words, if everything was copacetic at the homefront, I’d be Buffy’s partner in fighting the demons instead of a liability. If it wasn’t, then I’d make the decision about what I was going to do from there.
Into the night, I worked out in the gym. My strength had increased to ridiculous proportions. What can I say, I had a lot of anger to work through. Plus, it had the added benefit of wearing me out so I could get a full night’s sleep every once in a while.
I was pushing on my last rep of far too much weight when I heard someone clear their throat. Someone male. After settling the weight down, I sat up and reached for the towel at my feet at the same time.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised at the transparent image that floated in front of me, seeing as it was a comic book universe and all, but it was still made my inner geek sit up and bark.
“Hey Doc, hows it floating?”
Doctor Strange lifted an eyebrow and I saw his lips twitch ever so slightly.
“It floats fine, Ms. Harris.”
Yeah, I settled on people calling me Ms.
It was better than being called Shannon. I just couldn’t deal with that.
“I guess that you’re here about something important?” I asked.
Without waiting for me to play twenty questions, he let me in on what was up. “Ever since your arrival, I have been monitoring your home dimension in a round about way.”
My arched eyebrows shot up. “You can do that?”
“Of course. Though not in detail. I can, for instance, tell if a turning point of good or evil approaches and if it affects this dimension then I am able to intervene.”
“Ah.” I was about to get serious pissed if he said that he could see everything just fine and I’d been jerking around the Avenger Compound for nothing. “So is this good news or bad?”
His head tilted slightly. “I suppose it depends on your...”
“Doc, you’re killing me.”
“You’re going back home tomorrow, Ms. Harris. You’re needed there before things get out of hand.” He waited and watched my stunned reaction before continuing. “Please advise Steve to have you at the Sanctum Sanctorum, tomorrow at ten in the morning, no later. Bring whatever supplies you will need, whatever the quantity, I will provide you with an appropriate way to carry it along.”
I stood and met his Astral Image eye to eye. “Thanks, Doc. We’ll be there.”
Taking the stairs three at a time, I made my way to the lounge, where I knew any off duty personnel to normally be in-between crisis’.
Clint Barton aka Hawkeye was there sharing a drink with Steve. Both of them eyed me and the smiles dropped from their faces.
“Saddle up. Doc Strange wants me at his place by ten tomorrow. I’m going home.”
Steve grimaced, but Clint was already on his feet and crossing the floor with his hand out. “That’s great news Xander.” He stopped and looked just a little bit alarmed. “Crap, uh. Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.”
He dashed out of the lounge and I turned to Steve who still looked grim. “You’re not ready yet.”
I didn’t want to sit on the leather armchairs because I was still sweaty from the workout so I stood next to the one Clint was sitting on. “I know, but the Doc says something is going down and I’m needed.”
All I got out of him was a single nod. “Well then you don’t have much of a choice.”
From what I remember from several comics, Steve Rogers was a leader of heroes. If he was at the front of the battle then you were assured of a win, eventually. He was always portrayed as the ultimate patriot when it mattered and the penultimate boy scout at all other times. What the comics rarely showed was the amount of worry that was on his face behind the scenes.
“Steve, it’ll be okay. It’s what I want, and thanks to your training, I have a much better chance to survive what’s waiting for me.”
“Your training...” he started and I finished.
“Will never be enough.” I smiled. “I know that, and when I get past whatever I need to, then Giles and Buffy can help out in making me that much better.”
Running boot falls alerted us to Clint’s return. He was holding the staff that we’d been using to train me. It was similar to what Mockingbird used before she’d been killed. With a twist in one direction the metal telescoped to form into a quarterstaff, in the other direction a baton.
Holding it out to me he said, “I’m not going to be here tomorrow morning. Got an appointment on the west coast, so I’ll give this to you now.”
I paused before taking it and grinning back at him. “Thank, Clint. This’ll help more than you know.”
He shrugged. “Just quit hitting yourself in the head when you have it in nunchacku mode and you’ll be fine.” With a slug on my upper arm he nodded to Steve and winked at me. “Take care of yourself, Xander. Don’t be a stranger if you’re in the neighborhood again.”
Sleep came to me very late that night. Despite the heavy workout, I was still way too jazzed up at the thought of seeing my best friends in a few short hours. I tossed and turned winding up with only about three hours sleep.
When I awoke, I showered again -- okay, I shower way too often, but it feels good, so try to ignore it, m’kay -- donned a pair of sweats and headed down to the locker room to grab my uniform. I could only imagine the look in Willow’s eyes when she saw me for the first time.
What surprised me was that it wasn’t there. Instead, there was a brand new uniform, boots, gloves, and wrist shooters. Darker colors replaced the bright red, white, and blue that was a signature of Captain America.
“I thought you might want something a little more subdued since you’ll be working mostly at night.”
Spinning around, I saw Steve standing at the door looking somewhat pleased with himself.
Instead of responding right away, I pulled the uniform out of the locker and gave it the once over. The only white portion that showed was a smaller star at the center of the chest. It was encircled with red that branched off at an upward angle on either side to make it look like wings. Everything else was a very dark blue.
I felt my eyes heat up and choked out a thank you in reply.
“You’re welcome,” he said before making an exit.
The new suit was awesome. He’d added flexible armor at the neck so any vampire that tried to take a bite was looking at some serious dental work in the future.
Once I was fully dressed, I appreciated all the work that had been put into the outfit. It felt like a second skin, only thicker and much more deadly for the creatures of the Hellmouth. The shield was darker as well and I noticed that it was non-reflective. I felt like a super spy or something.
The baton/staff that Clint gave me went into a sheath at my hip and I was ready for action.
Breakfast was subdued. The only person joining me was Steve and he couldn’t keep himself back from offering last minute advice along the lines of what I lacked in fighting skills and what I needed to practice on in the future. He’d even gone so far as to write a lot down and told me to give it to Giles at my first opportunity. A mentor’s work was never done.
The Sanctum Sanctorum was every bit the gothic multi-storied house that it was in the comics. Even I felt something mystical about its presence and I was pretty much a magical null as far as I was concerned.
A bald Asian guy, Wong I think, led us to a room where Doc Strange was fiddling around with a big book of magic. Hey, I’ve seen pictures.
Cap set down a couple of boxes he was carrying while Wong let the Doc know we had arrived. Anybody else would look like a big idiot if they tried to pull off the mystical red cape with the disco popped collar in the back, but Doctor Strange made it look good.
“Captain, you’ll find a backpack on the table behind you for the gifts you brought for Ms. Harris. It should contain enough room for what you have.” When his eyes found me, he smiled softly. “Please, Ms. Harris, stand in the center of the circle while I attune the Eye of Agamotto to your essence.”
The circle he spoke of took up most of the room. There was more than one circle, three actually, each inside the other with a pentagram at the center. Ten minutes went by. I wasn’t too impressed with the special effects at that moment. The Eye was a big and red necklace that Strange wore around his neck, it didn’t seem to be doing much.
“Very well.” Doctor Strange opened his eyes and motioned me toward the back of the room.
Steve was there holding the backpack out to me. “Just a few things that we thought you might need, another uniform in case yours is damaged and a patching kit beyond that. A few changes of clothes and… stuff.
I chuckled. “Steve, you’re an awful liar. Thanks. I won’t forget this.”
“Two more things, Ms. Harris,” indicated the Doctor. He held out a necklace to Steve. “If you would do the honors, Captain.”
I reached back and unzipped the neck of the uniform so I could tuck it in after.
“When you accomplish your mission, simply hold the jewel in your palm and think of this room.”
“What’s it do?” I asked.
He breathed in and seemed reluctant to say. “You’ll know when the time comes.”
What’s a little cryptic message between friends?
The second thing was a sheathed knife, I think.
“This is the Sword of Bone. Normally it is only held by the Avatar of Agamotto, however, I have been advised that you are to use it to dispel the creature. Again...”
“I’ll know it when I see it.” I was starting to get use to hanging around with people that have no sense to say what they need to and just get it over with.
He nodded once in confirmation. “It will disappear when its purpose has been served.”
The sheath attached easily enough to my belt with a clip.
“Very well, are you ready?”
I looked back at Steve. He held out a hand to me. “Good luck, Xander.”
“Thanks. Stay safe. And thanks for everything you’ve done for me, Steve. You too, Doc.”
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