Title: Ironclad (1/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at http://fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=62966 or http://fanfiction.net/~cyclone

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG.

Spoilers: Up to season four and the Reign of the Supermen.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss and DC Comics. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Sunnydale has a new hero. Sequel to Steel Knight and Shining Armor, Crimson Tears.

Author's Note: Blame Tenhawk and cobra_7422000 for this. With Red & Gold, Tenhawk gave me the idea, and Cobra suggested how I could do it. Also, aside from what's in The Return of Superman, all DC information in this 'fic will be drawn from the Batman/Superman animated series (and possibly modified slightly).

* * *


Buffy stared at the body -- no, vampire -- that had just flown -- obviously unwillingly -- into the crypt in front of her, cracking the crypt's wall.


Before she could move to finish it off, the vampire's chest seemed to sprout a stake, and he crumbled to dust.

What the hell?

Full of Slayer stealth, she crept toward the continuing sounds of battle. She saw five...


...make that _four_ vampires. And they were fighting... Buffy's jaw dropped as she recognized the armored figure from the newscasts.

Thor slammed the head of Mjölnir into one vampire, sending him flying back against a tree. He thrust the hammer's shaft at a vampire behind him, skewering the vampire with the stake at the end. Raising his right arm...


...he fired a stake from his forearm into the first vampire's heart. He twirled the hammer and staked another vampire, bringing the other end around and smashing it across the last vampire's face, sending the bloodsucker to the ground. He lifted Mjölnir and plunged the stake end into its heart.

Then, he turned toward her.

"Hmm," he said, his voice deep and hollow, "judging from that stake, you know what I'm fighting here."

Buffy blinked and looked down at her stake sheepishly, "Uh, yeah." She stuttered for a moment before collecting her wits, "You're him, aren't you? Thor! Th-the Steel Knight!"

Unseen within his helmet, Xander blinked. "'Steel Knight?' Is that what they're calling me now?" he blurted out. In the next instant, he became eternally thankful for the suit's voice modulator; it concealed his surprise.

"Yeah," Buffy said, still a little intimidated in the presence of a hero like this. "Didn't you know?"

Thor shook his head.

"So, what are you doing in a little town like Sunnydale?" Buffy asked. "I-I thought you worked out of Metropolis."

"With Superman back and Steel and Superboy there, they don't need me," Thor replied. "But the Hellmouth does."

"You... you know about the Hellmouth?" she squeaked.

"Indeed," Thor said, then turned and crouched. "See you around... Slayer."

He rocketed away.

Buffy watched him disappear into the night sky, stunned. "He knows me," she murmured. A wave of giddiness ran through her, and it was almost enough to make her forget Parker.


* * *

Willow opened the door, a smile blooming on her face, and she hugged him close.

"Xander!" she squealed. "It's so good to see you!"

He hugged her back, glad that the awkwardness from after the Fluke and Faith seemed to have faded a little.

Planting a chaste kiss on her forehead, he said softly, "Missed you too, Will."

"Hey, Willow!" a voice called out. "If you're gonna bang your new boyfriend, at least have the decency to close the door!"

The moment of comfortable friendship vanished, and, blushing furiously, the two scurried into the dorm, closing the door behind them.

"Well," Xander said, "that was embarrassing. Oz is gonna kill me."

"Oh, no, he won't," Willow said, Resolve Face on, "or he'll have to answer to _me_."

Xander grinned. _This_ was the Willow he knew and loved.

Funny how he could admit that, now that the romantic implications were... resolved.

"Where have you _been_, Xander?" Willow asked, smacking him across the chest angrily. "I was so _worried_ about you! You told me you were going to go to Coast City, and when it went boom, I thought... I thought..." she sniffled.

"Hey, hey," Xander said softly, wrapping his arms around her comfortingly. "I'm sorry, Will. I'm sorry I didn't call. But things were kinda hectic in Metropolis at the time, what with all those Supermen running... err... flying around."

"You were in _Metropolis_?!" she screeched, jerking away from him and thumping his arm. She spun and stared at him incredulously. "You could have been killed! I-if Superboy hadn't stopped that big missile..."

"He hates that name," Xander murmured.

Willow's mind stumbled over that, and she frowned, "You... how do you know that?"

Xander stammered, "Uh, well, every time someone called him that on TV, he'd get really pissed. Kinda obvious, Will."

She nodded. She _had_ noticed that the media had been careful to call him "Superman" whenever he was around. Still...

Throwing her around him again and hugging him close, she said, "I'm just glad you're all right."

"No more than I am, Will," he said with a grin. "So, what's the gang been up to while I was away?"

* * *

Had Buffy not still been so rattled after her patrol by her encounter with the Metropolis hero, she might have heard the laughter coming from within her dorm.

As it was, she was just anxious to tell Willow about Thor. She'd have headed straight back if it hadn't been for the expected riser. Which she dusted with no problems, thankyouverymuch.

Bursting into the room, she squealed excitedly, "Willow, you are _not_ gonna believe who I ran into on patrol. He was so _amazing_, he just totally kicks ass, and..."

She blinked.

"Xander! You're back!" she engulfed him in an enthusiastic embrace.

"Ack," Xander murmured. "Buffy... ribs... cracking... need... air..."

She pulled back, blushing furiously. "Oh, God, Xander, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he said, rubbing his side exaggeratedly and grinning. "No permanent damage."

"It's good to have you back, Xander."

"It's good to be back, Buff," he replied with a smile, which faded with her next words.

"And your timing couldn't be better," she said, her face turning serious. "Spike's looking for something called the Gem of Amara. It's supposed to make vampires invulnerable."

* * *

Author's Postscript:

Well, I said I'd work on this one.