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Learning Curve

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Learning Curve". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: When Xander seems to be losing his way, Willow gives him a mission: to study the only known Sentinel. Xander may just learn about more than Sentinels while in Cascade. No Partner Betrayal! Jim/Blair (Sentinel), Blair/Xander, Xander/Spike

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Sentinel, The > Xander-CenteredlitgalFR211536,248284242,46020 Jan 0726 Jan 07Yes
CoA Winner

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Jim stood in the living room with his arms crossed, but even with the suspicious looks, the tension had somehow dropped between him and Spike since they had arrived at the loft just after the setting sun.

"Bloody hell, we'll never make customs if you don't hurry your arse up," Spike complained from his own spot leaning against the wall.

"Hurrying," Xander promised as he headed into the small room under the stairs. Yeah, Jim and Spike seemed to have called a truce on any murder attempts, and Blair was out there to baby-sit the two of them, but Xander still planned to make record time with the packing. He pulled open a drawer and grabbed random handfuls of fabric, not even bothering with sorting or sniff tests as he jammed it all into his suitcase.

"Xander?" Blair called quietly from the door.

"Hey, are they… ?" Xander glanced toward the door, half expecting to hear Jim and Spike in some epic battle to the death, or at least to the serious injury.

"They're fine. I just wanted to talk to you for a second," Blair promised as he came in and shut the door… the flimsy door that didn't even block the sound of Spike's boots impatiently pacing across the floor.

"That's not exactly going to keep a Sentinel or a vampire from eavesdropping," Xander pointed out as he grabbed his stuff out of the next drawer and shoved it into his bag.

"Jim wouldn't eavesdrop."

"Spike totally would."

That seemed to make Blair pause. "Xander, Simon was serious about that job offer. I don't know what happened last night, but I think I really screwed up big time, and I don't want you to go running off because I did something that made—"

"Hey, no. Ixnay on the exsay talk with the significant others, not that they don't know, but I'm just thinking let's not go for the exsay in front of them anyway," Xander interrupted. "And if we were talking about it, which we aren't, I would say that it was wonderful and I'm really glad that you were there for me, and is this feeling as weird for you as it is for me, because this is feeling pretty weird here," Xander finally petered off.

"Oh man, a little, yeah," Blair agreed. "I just tried to talk to Jim today, and he went all stoic on me."

Xander stopped packing and stared down at his own hands, hands that had rebuilt broken walls and carried injured girls and picked up the fallen weapons of dead potentials. His hands had held Rebekah, the young slayer they'd lost in England, as her skin peeled off in black sheets. Her tears had made little pink pools on his fingers where her blood stained his skin.

"Jim helped me last night," Xander struggled to explain.

"Did I hurt you?"

Xander snorted a laugh. "I was big with the hurt before I ever got here," Xander finally admitted. He'd never admitted that to even himself. "Jim just… he offered me a place to try and heal."

"That place is still here for you," Blair offered, and Xander nearly jumped out of his skin when Blair's warm hand came to rest on his shoulder. He turned and smiled at Blair, amazed at the acceptance he found in Blair's expression.

"And you have no idea how much that means, but I think I'm going to be okay. Really," Xander promised. Blair watched him, blue eyes searching for some sign, and maybe he found it because he nodded.

"I hear you. We all make our paths in life, and just remember that this one is here for you," Blair said softly.

"Will you just bloody hurry up?" Spike shouted from the living room, and oh yeah, the vampire had totally been listening. Xander shrugged at Blair.

"Is he always this annoying?" Blair mock whispered, and in the living room, Spike made a strangled noise that might have been some strange English curse cut off in the middle.

"Yep," Xander agreed with a smile. Blair smiled back before heading back out into the living room, probably to finish making the dinner that Spike and Xander had interrupted when they'd shown up on the guys' doorstep.

"Chill your fangs, Spike, I'm coming," Xander shouted through the open door as he grabbed his stuff out of the third drawer.

"We're going to miss the bloody plane if you don't shift your arse."

"And wouldn't that be a shame," Jim offered in a sarcastic voice.

"Oh man, would you just stop baiting the vampire?" Blair threw in. A knife ticked against the chopping board as Blair chopped vegetables.

"Soldier boy can't handle that he bloody lost," Spike said, and Xander didn't have to look to know that Spike had a smirk on his face.

"Xander isn't a prize at the county fair. He made a choice." Oh yeah, Jim was doing the jaw thing now.

"And you bloody lost."

"You'd better hope that you never die because with this attitude, your karma must be—" Blair made a whistling sound, and Xander imagined the man was making hand gestures to show the size of Spike's karma. Xander finished pulling clothes out of the dresser and got on his knees to retrieve anything that had migrated to under the bed.

"Mate, you have no idea. But I never plan to die, so I can't say I worry about it."

Xander stood and shoved the last pair of socks into the bag and zipped it. When he stepped out of the small room that had been his for the last few weeks, Jim and Spike were glowering at each other and Blair stood in the kitchen, knife still in hand as he rolled his eyes.

"Blair, Jim, I'm really glad you let me come do the whole tagging along thing, and well, you know all the things I have to thank you for that I'm going to avoid thanking you for because I'm not kiss-and-tell guy," Xander offered. Jim looked toward him, and the glower softened.

"No problem, Sport. You're always welcome."

"Don't know why you're actin' all shy. Not like I don't already know, pet. Especially the way this loft smells," Spike interrupted with a leer.

"The loft smells of Blair's orange cleaner and soap," Jim said with a hint of frustration in his voice.

"You're no bloody fun, mate. Can't give the boy shite if you go undermining me. 'Sides, maybe I just have a better sense of smell than you," Spike suggested.

"Oh man. That would be fascinating. Testing a demon? Talk about opening up new frontiers," Blair replied, awe clear in his voice. Xander turned and Blair had put the knife down as a look of curiosity slowly transformed the guide into the hyper super-scientist Xander both loved and dreaded.

"Oh shit," Xander whispered.

"Spike, just run for the door, and I'll cover you. As long as he doesn't have his notebook yet, we have a chance," Jim added with a fond look at his partner.

"Very funny, man," Blair complained, but Xander noticed Spike actually was moving toward the door.

"Xander, hurry up. Not goin' to be here when the Shaman starts the mojo."

Xander looked up at Spike sharply, as did Blair and Jim. "Mojo? Blair has mojo?" Xander asked.

"Of all the… what the soddin' hell do you think makes a Shaman a Shaman? They do mojo."

"Whoa," Blair interrupted as he held his hands palm-out in a gesture of surrender or helplessness. "I have never been the one with mojo here. Jim does the prophetic dreams and the super senses, and I just cover his back," Blair made a half-laugh that Xander recognized all too well, the whole 'make fun of yourself before someone does it for you' laugh.

"You honestly don't get it, do ya?" Spike asked curiously. No one answered. "Bloody hell, it takes years to train a Shaman. You got this one up and running in two weeks, and as much as I love the git, he's not known for his ability to sit still and learn. Then ya got a Sentinel here, and from what I read in Xander's reports, you taught him to use his sensory "dials" in one sitting. *That* is mojo."

Xander looked at Blair whose eyes were wide with shock. "He's mojoing his teaching?" Xander blinked at Blair who looked absolutely… well, Spike would describe that as gobsmacked. "God, where were you when I almost failed algebra? I so could have used a mojoing teacher with the powers of making people learn." Xander joked as he walked toward Spike giving Blair a little shove on the shoulder as he passed by.

"Oh man. Are you sure?" Blair finally asked in a voice weak with surprise.

"No, I'm not. But I'm willin' to bet your mojo has something to do with that. So, if you're goin' to go trying to use your powers of persuasion on me, I'll just be leavin'. I don't go for the mojo," Spike answered as he pulled the door open. Xander smiled when Spike's free arm slipped neatly around his waist. Spike tightened his grip for a moment before guiding Xander out of the apartment.

"Xander, hold on," Jim called. "I wanted to give you this." Jim came over, grabbing a manila envelope off the table as he came.

"If that's garlic…" Spike warned with a snarl, and really Jim and Spike didn't bring out the best in each other because Jim glared murder back.

"He was joking earlier," Blair interrupted, but Jim just smiled coldly at Spike as Xander pulled open the flap. Inside were printouts. A small wildcat with rounded ears and round brown eyes looked at a photographer from behind a wide leaf. The next picture had a cat's body laid out next to a yardstick, and Xander realized the animal was smaller than the average house cat. The third sheet had information about the animal's habitat in South America and how the animal lived in social groups… males actually rumored to help raise the kittens although scientists had never been able to study the elusive creatures well enough to confirm those reports.

Xander looked up at Jim. "Um… thanks? Can't say I'm getting it though," Xander admitted as he looked down at the sheets of paper. Spike reached over and tilted Xander's hand so that he could peer at the printouts.

"It's what I saw. That's your spirit guide," Jim answered as he nodded toward the envelope. Xander looked up at Jim's earnest expression and then down at the papers.

"A kodkod? I have a spirit animal named kodkod?" Xander nearly squeaked in his dismay. "Oh no. There has to be a return desk for these things. You know, trade up for something in a nice lion shape or actually anything that isn't small enough to get eaten by a house cat," Xander complained. "Come on… kodkod? I mean, the universe isn't this cruel."

"Least it's better than a dormouse," Spike pointed out as he looked over Xander's shoulder. Xander turned his head and glared at his lover, which earned him a slap on the ass.

"Thanks, mate," Spike said to Jim, and the man nodded his head in answer.

"We're here if you ever need us, you know," Blair said as he came over and joined Jim next to the table, leaning his body into Jim as the sentinel slipped an arm over Blair's shoulders.

"We'll keep that in mind," Spike answered.

"Bye, and thanks," Xander barely had time to add before he found himself pushed out of the loft and into a new life. As Spike's hand slipped around his waist and then the fingers dipped into the waistband of his jeans above his hipbone, he decided change was good. Now if he could just figure out how to trade in his spirit animal, it might even be perfect.

The End

You have reached the end of "Learning Curve". This story is complete.

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