Buffy wakes up groggy and disoriented with a vague memory of a glowing yellow portal. Two brunettes are frowning down at her. Buffy sits up slowly and they back off. Buffy pushes past the vertigo and stands, finds herself in some kind of lab. She looks at the brunettes. “Okay, what the hell?”
The smaller of the two winces. “Uh, wormhole mishap.”
The younger woman snorts. “At least this one looks human.”
Buffy frowns. “Messing with portals tends to bring demons.”
Both of them gape. “Demons?”
The shorter one’s eyes go distant, in a vaguely calculating way. “We’ve mostly gotten aliens. Demons are a thing?”
Buffy nods slowly. “Demons are a thing. Aliens are not.”
“Actually, they are.”
Buffy closes her eyes, tries to calm down and make herself think. “Okay… alternate universe maybe?” She opens her eyes. “Does shrimp exist here?”
The younger woman nods. “Uh yeah.”
“Why are you messing with portals?”
“That’s our job? Boss lady is a genius astrophysicist.”
Buffy’s jaw drops. “This is science?”
“What’d you think it was?”
‘Boss lady’ scoffs and starts muttering an uncomplimentary diatribe under her breath.
Buffy holds her hands up. “Look, can you send me back?”
The scientist opens and closes her mouth several times. “I don’t know.”
The women are Dr. Jane Foster and her assistant Darcy Lewis. Jane’s portals are, in fact, science. They can’t send her back.
“I’m sorry, what?” Buffy scowls at the giant, dark-skinned man in front of her.
Heimdall bows his head. “I apologize, my lady. The portal Dr. Foster opened that brought you here is unstable. Re-opening it would likely cause the collapse of both our worlds.”
Buffy crosses her arms over her chest.
Heimdall’s eyes shine. “I am sorry, for the loss of your world, Slayer, but your future in this one is bright, if you will let it be.”
He lifts his sword and disappears in a flash of rainbow light.
She closes her eyes long enough to let her thoughts gather and allow a few stray tears to fall. Then she squares her shoulders and turns back to Jane and Darcy.
Jane looks chagrined. “I’m sorry.”
Buffy shrugs. “Honestly, not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. So how’s a girl from a different dimension get set up in this world?”
Darcy smirks. “Lucky for you, we’re part of the one organization in existence that can swing that.”
SHIELD has enough Initiative type vibes that Buffy initially has a serious case of the wiggins. Then they take her to Deputy Director Hill. Buffy knows, without a doubt, that this woman would have been a Potential in her world, and something in her settles. She’s also a fan of the glare that the woman has aimed at Jane and Darcy.
“Let me see if I’ve got this right,” Maria says slowly. “You accidentally opened a portal that you couldn’t close and she,” she points to Buffy, “came through, and you can’t send her back.”
Darcy winces. “Yeah, pretty much. And ya know, since it’s our fault, we figured we could help her get legit in this world?”
Maria visibly aborts a reach toward her temples, then turns to Buffy. “Who are you?”
“Heimdall called her Slayer,” Jane offers meekly.
Maria raises an eyebrow.
Buffy shrugs. “Vampire Slayer. Do you guys have vampires?”
Maria shakes her head.
Buffy almost pouts, then realizes that’s not actually a bad thing. But she’s at a loss. “What am I supposed to do with myself here?”
“What did you do in your world?”
“Slayer. I killed monsters.”
Maria chuckles. “Well, then you’re in the right place, Miss Summers.”
They show her video snippets of a group they’ve labeled the Avengers. By the end of it, she’s grinning. “Okay, how’s a girl get in on that?”
Maria grins back. “Welcome to SHIELD, Miss Summers.”
Darcy calls someone named Tony, then drags Buffy up to a penthouse in one of the upper levels of the Tower they’re in. She snags a shiny black credit card from a dark-haired man’s hand, kisses his cheek, then whirls Buffy back out and down onto the street. Apparently they’re in New York. Buffy raises an eyebrow.
Darcy waves the card and grins. “We’re going shopping.”
Buffy grins back.
Buffy strips her shirt off in the first dressing room and freezes at the sight that meets her from the mirror. “Uh, Darcy?”
“Right here,” the younger woman’s voice sounds right outside the door.
Buffy opens the door and points to the black script adorning each of her collarbones. “I didn’t have any tattoos before I came here.
Darcy’s face scrunches up. “Tattoos? Bu- oh my Thor! Does your world not have Soulmarks?!”
Buffy’s expression goes blank. “Soulmarks?”
Darcy nods. “The first words your Soulmate, or Soulmates - looks like you’re part of a Triad - say to you are Marked on your skin.”
Buffy blinks several times. Opens her mouth. Closes it again. Shakes her head. “Shopping now. More life-altering changes to be processed later.”
‘Shopping’ turns out to be Darcy using Tony’s credit card, seemingly with no limit, to buy Buffy an entire wardrobe, everything to furnish an apartment, putting in a grocery order, and having everything delivered to the Tower, which apparently includes apartments, one of which Buffy is being handed the metaphorical keys to - Darcy tells her the whole building is automated. They pick up Chinese takeout around the corner from the Tower on the way back, and Darcy guides her to a door on one of the upper floors, where she finds everything they purchased today already set up to perfection. Buffy’s jaw drops.
Darcy smirks. “Welcome to life with Stark.”
A stack of black and gray SHIELD issue gear is sitting on the coffee table, along with a phone and a note from Maria, with instructions to meet someone named Natasha in a lower level training gym the next morning.
Buffy frowns. “Maybe I should’ve mentioned that Slayers tend toward the nocturnal.”
Darcy, bless the girl, shows up at her door at 6am the next morning, some kind of breakfast sandwich and suitably frou frou coffee in hand.
Buffy groans appreciatively. “I know you’re probably doing all this ‘cause of some kind of guilt thing, but I don’t even care. I love you.”
Darcy beams. “Maybe a little.”
Buffy inhales the proffered food and downs half the coffee before tugging on a pair of black sweats and a loose gray tank top - both SHIELD issue - over a sports bra and shoves her feet into her tennis shoes as she’s brushing her teeth.
“If we aren’t out the door in the next two minutes, you’re gonna be late!” Darcy calls.
Buffy spits. “Coming!”
She sweeps her hair into a ponytail in the elevator. The gym the doors open up on nearly makes her salivate. “Okay, I’m staying.”
Darcy snorts. “Just for the gym?”
Buffy jerks her chin toward a pair of dark-haired men sparring on one of the far mats. “And the eye candy.”
Dracy snickers. “Trust me, plenty of that to go around. Careful with those two, though.”
“Brock Rumlow and Jack Rollins. STRIKE team Alpha. Badass dudes. Dangerous. They infiltrated a terrorist organization and spent years playing triple agents. Kinda dark side-y sometimes. Also, Soulmates.”
Buffy shrugs. “Probably not as shady as some of my ex’s pasts.”
Darcy raises an eyebrow.
“Another time, involving much ice cream and booze.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Darcy leads her to another sparring mat, directly next to the one Rumlow and Rollins are utilizing, and a graceful redhead stretching. “Morning, Nat!”
The redhead straightens and smiles. “Darcy.” She turns her head and holds out a hand. “You must be Buffy. I’m Natasha.”
Buffy shakes her hand firmly. “Nice to meet you. So what exactly are we doing here?”
“Hill wants to see where your skills lie, so SHIELD can figure out where you’ll be best utilized.”
“So we’re sparring?”
There’s little ceremony after that. Natasha puts Buffy on her back in less than a minute the first round and frowns. “You’re holding back.”
Buffy springs to her feet and rolls her shoulders. “So are you.”
Natasha almost smirks. “You’d get hurt if I wasn’t.”
Buffy’s pride pricks, and she takes a ready stance. When the other woman charges, she puts her on her back. Natasha breaks away and gets back to her feet, charges again. Buffy dodges, spins, and sends her sprawling face first to the mat. The third time she charges, Buffy kicks her halfway across the next mat over. The redhead is slower getting up that time, and actually limps a bit on her way back. Buffy drops her arms. “No offense, Natasha, but people get hurt when I don’t hold back. Not the other way around.”
Natasha eyes her speculatively. “Darcy?”
Darcy shuffles forward from the edge of the mat. “Yeah?”
“Go find your boytoys for me?”
Darcy offers a sloppy salute and heads for the elevator.
Buffy comes down enough to realize everyone in the gym has stopped to stare at them. She ignores them and starts stretching. She’s learned, over the years, that apologizing for what she is isn’t worth her time.
Darcy comes back a few minutes later with more eye candy in tow. “Buffy, meet Steve and Bucky, resident supersoldiers.”
Bucky frowns at Natasha. “The hell happened to you?”
Natasha almost smirks when she points to Buffy.
Steve’s eyes go wide. “What?”
“I think,” Natasha says slowly, “she’s more your speed.”
Steve frowns. “I ain’t fightin’ a little thing like that.”
Buffy scowls. “‘Little thing’ is right here and sure as hell not scared of the likes of you.”
Bucky chuckles. “Mouthy.”
Darcy pouts up at Steve. “Come on. For me?”
Bucky groans and kisses her head. “That pout should be illegal, doll. Come on, punk.”
Steve groans, but follows him onto the mat.
Buffy bites her lip to hide her smile and shoots a look at Darcy. The brunette nods, eyes shining, in a way that tells Buffy the woman knows damn well she has her Soulmates wrapped around her pinky finger. Buffy rolls her eyes. “I’ll try not to permanently damage your boys.”
Darcy grins. “Keep away from the faces.”
Buffy salutes and takes a defensive stance.
Bucky and Steve are, at the very least, a challenge. They start out coordinated, organized, predictable. When Buffy bests them at every turn, their style changes, becomes more back alley loose and rough. They call a draw after half an hour, all sweating with heaving chests, and grinning like mad.
Bucky smiles broadly. “We’re keeping this dame, right?”
“Might fight you for her,” a gravelly voice comes from behind Buffy. She spins, having forgotten about their audience, and finds Rumlow eyeing her appreciatively. “Fury’s been talking about adding a third member to our team. We could use someone like her.”
Buffy raises an eyebrow.
Rumlow keeps coming toward her, stops right up in her space. “You’re dangerous, aren’t you?”
Off to the side, Buffy hears Darcy’s breath catch even as her own heart flips. She gives him a slow up and down. He’s got the whole dark and swarthy thing going for sure. The tattoos aren’t something she’s been into before, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t want to lick them. The eyes and voice like whiskey sure as hell don’t hurt either. She looks back up to his face and smiles, slow and sure. “I’ve heard the same thing about you.”
He actually stumbles back, shock evident.
Jack steps forward, right into the space that Brock had just vacated. He opens his mouth then just stares down at her, something like wonder in his eyes.
Buffy’s smirk softens in a more sincere smile. “Got something to add, handsome?”
He laughs. “You’re gonna keep us on our toes, ain’t ya, sheila?”
In the background, Bucky curses. “Fucking Soulmates. No way in hell we’re gonna get to keep her if she’s paired with those assholes.”
Jack raises a hand and flips him off without taking his eyes off Buffy.
Nick raises an eyebrow at Hill. “I’m sorry, you want me to what?”
“Approve an addition to STRIKE Team Alpha,” Maria repeats calmy.
“The addition of a civilian. From a different fucking universe.”
Maria fights the urge to roll her eyes. “Sir, she beat Agent Romanoff in hand to hand, and fought Rogers and Barnes to a draw. She dented an unprocessed vibranium rod with a bare fist and barely cracked a knuckle, which was healed within hours. Our contacts on Asgard say there’s no way of getting her back to her own world. You’ve been looking for someone to balance Rumlow out.”
“She sounds like another blunt force weapon.”
“So how does that help me?”
“With her in the line of fire, Rumlow and Rollins might actually use their brains before charging into a fight.”
“What? Because she’s a woman? Bullshit.”
Maria does roll her eyes now. “Because she’s their Soulmate, sir.”
Buffy stares at the men seated on her little couch, and tries to think of what to say. Darcy insisted she’d make sure the three of them had cleared schedules for the rest of the day. Not knowing where else to go, Buffy had led the two men to her apartment. She knows she should explain who and what she is, where she came from, but she doesn’t know where to start, and she really doesn’t want to watch their awed expressions toward her veer into ‘she’s crazy’ territory.
It’s Brock who breaks the silence. “Not to be rude, but… where the fuck did you come from? Our third Marks, they just showed up yesterday, and you sure as hell aren’t a newborn.”
“Thank God for that,” Jack mutters.
Silence broken, Buffy heaves a sigh, and launches into the whole alternate world thing, probably oversharing some parts of her past, but she’s got an overwhelming urge to tell these guys everything and she’s too confused to fight it. When the verbal avalanche ends, she risks a glance up. She slumps into her chair, relief coursing through her, when the ‘she’s crazy’ look isn’t on either of their faces. They’re both still looking at her with something like wonder.
Jack stands and kneels in front of her awkwardly, then simply holds his arms open.
Buffy, the events of the last two days finally seeming to click and crash through her brain, simply lurches forward into his arms, and starts sobbing. He lifts her easily, settling back onto the couch and cradling her gently in his lap. She feels a hand carding gently through her hair and another wrapped securely around her hip and another rubbing circles soothingly on her back and it’s weird, but more than that it’s comforting - anchoring. Eventually, she calms.
“Alright?” Jack asks quietly, with a gentle squeeze to her hip.
She nods, a little numbly, against his chest. “Yeah. It’s just…”
“A lot?” Brock asks.
She sits up, turns around in Jack’s lap then settles back against him so she can see both of them. “Yeah. A lot.”
“We’ll do this however you want to, sweetheart,” Brock reassures. “We’re assholes, but we’re your assholes, whatever you want that to mean, and we aren’t gonna ask for anything you don’t want to give.”
“But you can have whatever you want,” Jack adds.
Buffy sniffles a little, offering a watery smile. “Stay? I don’t… I don’t know, exactly what I want yet, but… Darcy explained the whole Soulmate thing. This is all new, but having two people I know I can count on… right now I just feel like I wanna sleep for a week, but… stay?”
“We’re yours, darlin’,” Jack assures.
Brock nods. “Not goin’ anywhere.”