What I Did On My Summer Vacation by Xander Harris
by Drake Pendragon
Disclaimer: I own nothing. What is Joss' is Joss'. What is Marvel's is Marvel's
“Everyone turn in your essay. You’ve had all summer to write it. What you did on your summer vacation... I can’t wait to read your riveting accounts,” Mr. Somner said lazily from his desk.
Xander Harris sighed and pulled out his written essay from his bag. For once, he had actually written something. This was monumental to say the least. The bespectacled redhead next to him leaned in close and whispered to him. “Are you really going to turn that in?” Rebecca Barnes asked.
Mr. Somner cut they’re conversation off. “You, new girl, sit there and pretend you actually want to attend school.”
“Yes, sir,” Rebecca replied nicely.
“Why not? It’s an interesting read,” Xander replied with a lopsided smirk.
“Just seems a little out there, you know?” Rebecca replied, her voice full of subtext.
“This is probably the first time I've actually written one of these and you want to ruin it?” Xander asked.
“I don’t want to ruin it, Xan, I just think you should read it through and wonder if you should be breaking the tradition of not turning one in,” Rebecca pointed out.
“Fine, Becca, fine,” Xander replied. He dramatically snapped the paper rigid and started reading it over again.
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
By Alexander Harris
Summer vacation. A time to relax and have fun. A time for swimming and ice cream. As long as there has been suburbia, there has been a mythical image of summer. The time between when a school year ends and another one begins is held sacred in the eyes of students. You did not worry. You did not fret. You did not try. You had no responsibilities. If you didn't go to bed each night thinking about how amazingly awesome your day was, you must have wasted it. The level of fervor was solely because you knew that it would come to an end. You knew that the days were numbered and so you milked every last chance out of it. If you couldn't remember ever summer vacation like the miraculous adventure it was, you were missing out. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this one any time soon.
I chose, since I was approaching my senior year of high school, to go on a road trip. I said that I really didn't have a clue where I was going and that was part of the magic of it. That was why everyone believed it. Of course, the real point was that I wanted time away from my hometown and all the complications that came with it. I was single and hating it, I just got the cast off my broken arm, and one of my best friends ran away from home. I gathered my friends and my chosen family, not the alcoholics that I happened to be blood related to, and told them I was going to use my savings and just set out driving in a direction for the summer.
It is so nice to get unanimous support across the board, I can tell you. We were all still reeling after the past few months and especially Jenny’s, I mean Ms. Calendar’s death. I laid out a map of California and put a spinner right on my hometown. When it came to rest I knew I was leaving crappy old Sunnydale for the City of Angels: Los Angeles. I packed up my Uncle’s Chevy Corvair, said a prayer to whatever higher power was listening and drove south.
I had it all mapped out in my head once I hit the open road: Venice Beach, Hollywood, or even West Hollywood if I was feeling adventurous. I wasn't an avid skateboarder or even a remotely good one, but I was competent enough and had the presence of being to roll casually down the sidewalk in Venice Beach and then book it out of town when the real skaters decide to beat me up for the charade. That’s what a skateboard is best for, of course: escaping bullies that really just don’t like you.
The real reason I came to LA was less the jovial or fun seeking and completely against the spirit of summer vacation. See, the thing is when one of my best friends ran away from home I couldn't just sit back and pretend to not know where she was going. She’s the type to run and hide from her feelings and herself. Now, traditionally, she would run to someone not knee deep in the hoopla, but where do you run when everyone is coping and dealing with the fallout of your life? A place you once called home. I spoke to her mom before I set out, and I think she’s the only one that figured out what I was doing. She said that she and her daughter had some words and she kicked her out of the house in a fit of anger. Misplaced anger. I could tell she was counting on me to bring her daughter back safely to her.
The things I’ll do for the woman I love. Not her mother, no, god no, but her: Buffy Anne Summers. LA was her home before she moved to Sunnydale, but she didn’t have any friends left here since her expulsion from Hemery High School and her subsequent ostracization from all things social. When I find her I guarantee she’ll say she thought running away was a good idea at the time.
I checked the high school none-the-less and found the evidence of her trade on the side of the building. I wasn't surprised she came back at night rather than when anyone she knew would be around. I wondered if she went looking for the night life or the night life found her. You can never tell with her. See, she’s what you call the Vampire Slayer. One of those one-girl-in-all the-world kinds of deals that meant she was super powered but had a real early expiration date. She met hers a year ago but luckily her faithful sidekick was there to resuscitate her. That’s me, folks, the faithful sidekick: the Robin to her Batman; the Bucky to her Captain America; the Xander Harris to her Buffy Summers.
I've never really blinked since we first met and after everything we've been through? I’m sure as hell not blinking now. Whether she found danger or danger found her, I was determined to be there for her. That was why I was walking alongside the great and disgusting canal down in Maywood, looking for her looking for trouble. I, of course, realized that searching a thirty mile area for one lone blonde girl beating up on vampires was a tall order, but it took whatever it would take. Plus, the demon I paid off told me to search Maywood. He was probably lying.
I should have taken my luck into account. I am the luckiest person in the world when it came to finding trouble on my own. Which, for some, would be no luck at all. There was gunfire and lots of it. I heard a man yell a loud ‘wah-hoo!’ before something exploded. The fireball lifted above the buildings on the other side of the nasty channel and I figured I was too close to something I had no business being near. A body flew through the air, flailing a lot before landing in the all kinds of wrong water.
I dove in without thinking because who would actually dive into that stuff if they were thinking about it? The water felt thick and I dared not open my eyes. My hands finally felt what was a limp arm and I pulled it towards the shore. It did cross my mind that this could be just a body on the bottom of the canal, so I checked for a pulse and found one. Points all around: the body is not dead and not a vampire. I hefted the guy on to the concrete shore and got a chance to see him under all that grime and gunk. He was familiar, as in I've read the comic books based on his adventures during World War II since I was a child level of familiar. As in my absolute hero of heroes was right in front of me. Sure enough, that star-spangled shield was strapped onto his left arm.
The battle cry of ‘wah-hoo!’ came back to me in an instant. I couldn’t believe it. Captain America and the Howling Commandos were fighting something right by me. Then I panicked. Captain America and the Howling Commandos were fighting something right by me. Cap convulsed and hacked up some of the brackish water. He thanked me for pulling him out of the water and I would a liar if I said I didn't get some kind of giddy feeling in my stomach at hearing a bona fide hero thank me.
What he was fighting decided that he was a better target than the rest of the Howling Commandos. At least that’s what I preferred to think at the moment over the possibility there might not be any Commandos left. The thing was outside my fighting expertise and just shy of the Judge when it comes to terrifying. It was an eight foot tall robot of death and it was coming at me, well, Captain America, but as I was helping him to his feet I include myself in that target radius as well.
Cap tried to save me getting in front of me but the robot slapped him out of the way. I ran to help him again, as true sidekicks always do, and go shot for my trouble. One of the spikes on its knuckles the size of a .50 caliber bullet went right through my lung and into the electrical tower nearby. The sound of it pinging off the tower rang so loud in my ears that I felt I might go deaf. My legs shook and went out from underneath me, dropping into Cap’s arms. He slung me over his shoulder and ran across the railroad tracks to the warehouse to where I conveniently parked the car. We were within a dozen feet of that Corvair when another spike shot straight through my thigh and it twisted us to the ground.
The metal monstrosity got the upper hand, quite literally, on Cap when he was trying to pull me to safety. It hit him hard enough to send him sprawling to the ground. He rolled over and raised his shield but the robot swatted it aside. The patriotic disc skipped to a stop right beside me. The robot picked up my Uncle’s car and raised it over head to smash Cap with. I pushed myself onto my good knee and did something I remember Cap doing in the comic books. Despite the punctured lung, shattered femur, and loss of blood, I threw that shield as hard as I could right into the underside of the Corvair’s trunk.
For those of you that have never owned such a magnificent piece of crap, they have but one serious design flaw: if someone rear ends you, your car might explode. Now, throw a shield made of vibranium straight into the underside of the trunk and not only will you get an explosion, it will create a disc-like bullet that cleaves the giant killer robot in two. I collapsed to the blacktop with Cap kneeling over me. I have the best luck in the world.
That’s how I got myself here, sitting in a hospital bed at Los Angeles Air Force Base with some fancy bandages on my chest and around my leg and writing a school essay. When I woke up I spent hours wondering how I was alive, why I was in a military hospital, and why I felt like I could go a few rounds with a mob of vampires. Then Steve Rodgers explained it to me. He, Captain America, donated the blood necessary to save me. A good deed, to be sure. I heard once that a single blood donation saved three lives or one good meal for a vampire. Charity either way.
The only thing is getting a blood donation from Captain America comes with complications. The way Steve explained it was way too scientific and complicated for me to hope to remember it. But what he told me, in short, is that the serum that made him into the super soldier he is today still lingers in his blood and in his cells. When they put his blood into me, the serum got to work again and started changing the body into a super soldier. The only difference was his bombardment with vita rays and I was radiation free. The expectations sat between it’ll be a really long time before naturally reached peak performance and it’ll happen in the next few days. After all, the serum in his blood stream was already bombarded by vita rays, so that could affect it in mine. Confusing? I sure thought so. Mystical chaos empowerment magic was a lot simpler than this.
I think that if I were normal to begin with, I’d feel a lot like a freak. I was all super powered and had nowhere to go. But when your days and nights are occupied with demons and vampires and all kinds of evilness, things flow a bit easier. Instead of worrying if I might break the handle off a door, I was worrying about kinds of demons that might take undue interest it me. Like more praying mantis ladies. Just about any vamp that could smell the serum in my blood. Actually, I was a bit worried about breaking handles off doors. Was this how Buffy saw the world on a daily basis?
There was at least one of the Howling Commando in my hospital room at all times just to keep me company. It was more than slightly awesome. I explained everything to them about vampires, Sunnydale, and why I was here in LA because how could you lie to guys like that? They weren't shocked by any of it except that my friends and I were the only line of defense should anyone try to open the Hellmouth. I guess that’s because of who actually was in the Howling Commandos. After all, World War II happened a little less than 60 years ago. Back then they were a team of soldiers fighting Hydra and the Nazis. Now they were closer to a team like the Avengers. I could have sworn that Captain America was in charge of that team as well. In any case, the Howling Commandos were now Captain America, Bucky, Black Widow, Dum-Dum Dugan, and Spitfire. I thought being around Buffy was intimidating and hard for a hormonal teenager to cope with. Having the Black Widow and Spitfire checking you over for injuries was far worse.
Everyone reacted a little differently to me, which is completely normal. It’s only really noticeable when your nearly bed or wheelchair ridden for a few weeks. Cap kept acting like a proud father and the opposite of mine. Bucky treated me like a protective older brother which caused Widow to adopt the similar role. They had a daughter, Nomad, who never left my side. I didn't realize I had any luck with the ladies and boy was she one. Of course having assassins for parents put me on my best behavior at all times. Absolute best. Dum-Dum was like my uncle Rory except he didn’t have to be drunk to be funny and he was the kindest man I would ever meet. I kinda wanted to call him dad the moment I met him. Spitfire could possibly be the only vampire I’ll ever like and by far the most attractive one. I’ll pass on the Drusillas and the Darlas of the world. Spitfire didn’t get all bumpy and demonic when she got angry, only fangy, and damn could she outclass any Slayer in existence. Here’s to that fact that she’s on the good side.
It took around a few weeks for my injuries to heal which still blows my mind considering the time it took for my broken arm to heal at the end of last school year. Cap and the Commandos did so much for me, too much in my opinion but that’s just my pitiful self-esteem talking, they saved my life just because I helped them out a little bit. More than that, however, they found Buffy for me and things were set right in my life. That’s an understatement and kind of a lie, but hey, a guy’s gotta keep some secrets, right?
So, in closing I broke my own rule of Summer Vacation: I worried and I fretted. It wasn’t fun filled and free of care. But it definitely was memorable. I don’t think I’d do anything different. Except, maybe, the getting shot parts. I don’t want go through that again. See, the thing with sidekicks is they outgrow their betters even if they never stop needing them. They learn to stand on their own two feet. Robin became Nightwing. Bucky became the Winter Soldier. Xander Harris, well, we’ll just have to see.
Xander looked at Rebecca sheepishly and slipped it back into his back pack. “It may look a bit out there,” Xander admitted.
Rebecca smiled and nodded knowingly. “I’m sure my parents wouldn't mind you not turning that in,” Rebecca said.
“It is not cool to threaten your boyfriend with your assassin parents,” Xander said.
“It’s a good thing that they consider you family then,” Rebecca commented.
“So, I guess what happens in Maybrook stays in Maybrook?” Xander asked. Rebecca laughed.
“Either that or you’ll have to explain why some of the times you say ‘wah-hoo’ isn’t in combat,” Rebecca replied with a devilish smirk. Xander coughed awkwardly and turned scarlet red.