Title: Ironclad (5?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: Nothing worse than the show.

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

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to 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: Been a LONG time, huh? As before, 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).

"No, you can't be real," Xander backed away, shaking his head in denial. "You're dead! I SAW YOU DIE!"

The Cyborg Superman snorted derisively. "You live on the Hellmouth, boy. You should know better than anyone that death isn't always permanent."

Xander lashed out, and the Cyborg negligently caught his fist.

"You're a fool. You think wearing that costume means anything? Why not wear the one that gives you real power?"

"Screw you, you Terminator reject!" Xander shot back, launching his other fist at the Cyborg, who easily caught that one too.

"You know, boy, we're more alike than you want to admit," he said, squeezing Xander's hands. "We're both nothing without the machine. We both are the machine."

"That's... not... true..." Xander snarled, biting back the pain.

"Oh, really?" the Cyborg sneered, releasing Xander and stepping back, spreading his arms out in invitation. "Then fight me! Kill me and prove it!"

Xander threw himself into a tackle, but the Cyborg merely caught him and flung him against the wall.

"You should have listened to your Slayer friend and stayed 'fray-adjacent,' boy," the Cyborg said, his voice taking on a lecturing tone as he stalked toward Xander. "Who's going to save you now?"

Buffy stepped cautiously, looking around the room.


She turned and smiled in relief, "Xander!" She looked around, "Oz?"

Suddenly, she saw Willow running in, swatting at the air.

"Get them off me! Get them off me! Get 'em off! Get 'em off!"

Like images in a funhouse mirror, the two young men immediately moved to try and calm Willow down.

"Willow, Willow, Willow, what's wrong?"


"Couldn't get them off."

"It's okay. It's okay," Oz murmured, pulling her into a hug as Xander stepped back out of the way. "We're okay."

"We're not okay," Buffy said. "We need to get out of here."

"I second that," Xander nodded. He suppressed a shudder at what he'd just been through.

"The house separated us," Oz concluded. "It wanted to scare us."

"But... we got away," Willow said hopefully. Xander nodded.

"No," Buffy said. "We were brought here. We all got so scared that we ended up here. Why?"

Xander blinked at that, then shook it off and pointed at the pentagram, "I saw them painting that. They were copying it out of..." he looked around, "...that!"

"I think it's Gaelic," Willow said as she looked over the book.

"Can you translate?" Buffy asked

"Release me!" came a deep, rumbling voice. "Release me!"

"Not by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!" Xander shot back. After what he'd seen earlier... no, not impressed by a disembodied voice.

"Will, give me something."

"Okay, um, um, the icon's called the-the Mark of Gachnar. I-I think this is a summoning spell for something called..."

"Gachnar?" Xander suggested.

"Well, yes. Somehow the beginning of the spell must have been triggered. Um, Gachnar is trying to manifest itself, to-to come into being."


"I-it feeds on fear."

"Our fears are manifesting it. We're feeding it. We need to stop."

"Release me!"

"Okay, so our fears are feeding it, if we get everyone out of here..."

"Wait, wait, wait," Xander broke in. "I'm having a thought. It needs fear to get here, right?" He gestured at the Mark of Gachnar, "And that little symbol there's how it's manifesting everyone's fear, right?"

Buffy nodded slowly as understanding dawned in her eyes, and with two quick strides, she approached the Mark of Gachnar...


...and put her fist through it.

"Uh, Xander, it's glowing. I don't think that's a good sign."

He shrugged, "Hey, it was just a thought. I didn't see anyone else coming up with anything."

"Look!" Willow squeaked.

After a moment, Buffy blinked. "This is Gachnar?"

"Big overture, little show," Xander commented.

Standing a mighty six inches tall, Gachnar glared up at them and squeaked, "I am the dark lord of nightmares! The bringer of terror! Tremble before me. Fear me!"

"He... he's so cute!" Willow giggled.


"I don't think you'll need a stake for this one, Buff," Xander deadpanned.

"Yeah, yeah," she scowled as she raised her foot...

Xander plopped onto his bed.

Buffy had been wrong. Not all of them had been beaten by their fears.

He, at least, hadn't been. But, he supposed, it was easier to fight something when you could put a face to it. Who knew what the others had had to face? He thought back to that confrontation and shuddered.


"You should have listened to your Slayer friend and stayed 'fray-adjacent,' boy," the Cyborg said, his voice taking on a lecturing tone as he stalked toward Xander. "Who's going to save you now?"

"No one. No one has to," Xander said softly. He looked up, "Because you're not real. Even if you were... if what you said about me being useless without the suit was true, you wouldn't have bothered with me. Either you're not real... or you're afraid of me. Not the suit. That suit's no threat to you, tin man. It never was."

Xander rose and glared at the Cyborg Superman in the eyes, "Take your best shot, you overgrown walking toaster."


End Flashback--

In retrospect, perhaps daring the Cyborg to clobber him hadn't been the best idea. When his head had cleared from the concussion -- real or not, the Cyborg packed quite a punch -- he'd found himself with the others in the room with the Mark of Gachnar.

Note to self: Frat parties bad.

Author's Postscript:

Good things come to those who wait. And boy, if you read this, you have been waiting.