LONG & WINDING ROAD
Colorado Springs High
Chapter 2: Penny Lane
Xander sat on the edge of the bed in his new bedroom and laced up his boots. The room itself was kind of small, but it was furnished with a soft bed with matching dresser and nightstand. The walls were painted a warm golden beige and a big picture of modern day Khan el-Khalili, the most famous market in Cairo Egypt, hung on one wall and an ancient Egyptian funerary mask hung on another. He had spent many decades living on the Cairo Hellmouth and so the decorations felt comfortable and home-like even if he did have the urge to have the mask tested for curses.
Actually, Dr. ‘call me Daniel, please’ Jackson’s entire condominium apartment was warm and homey. When Xander had first walked in the front door, he had taken one look around at all of the heavy leather-bound books on the shelves, the various old weapons and artwork on the walls, the odd ancient curio here and there and promptly stuck his foot in his mouth. Apparently the observation, “Hey big D, ya got a lot of neat-o bric-a-brac here,” was the wrong thing say and it had earned him a 45 minute lecture on the difference between kitsch hew-haws and genuine artifacts or object d’art.
Lessons in significant cultural and historical knickknacks aside, it hadn’t taken long last night to get Xander installed in his new home since he didn’t have much beyond a few issued BDU’s and the clothes he’d worn when he arrived via Vengeance Lord Transport. In fact, his weapons were still under lock and key at the mountain. He was hoping that if he promised to merely display them on a wall rack in his room or something he could get his knives and his axe soon. The magical guns were still being examined and tested by Major Carter though and it would probably harder to get them back.
A lack of clothing or weapons wasn’t going to be a problem much longer, however. Standing up, he wandered out of his room and into the hallway. He could hear Daniel fussing about in the kitchen and headed that way. Turning into the large airy kitchen he saw his host pouring himself a mug of delicious smelling coffee.
“Hey, big D.”
The other man turned partway around, his mouth open to say something. He paused instead as a wry grin twisted its way across his face.
“I’m not going to be able to get you to stop calling me that; am I?”
Xander pretended to consider it.
“Um…nope?” He grinned and shrugged, “But I’m an annoying teenager so I’m allowed to be obnoxious like that.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, “Then explain Jack to me.”
Only mildly regretful that Jack wasn’t here to appreciate his psycho-analytical perceptiveness, Xander shrugged and attempted to explain the man.
“Explain Jack? Ooookay. Jack is a black-ops assassin-y type stuck in a mid-life crisis who has unleashed his inner moppet through kindergarten-esque taunts and child-ish nicknames.”
Daniel nodded his head, an expression of serious contemplation on his face before turning those bright inquisitive eyes at Xander.
“And that’s different from you, how?”
Xander pressed his hand over his heart and rocked back as if struck, “Oh! Zinged by the book-boy!”
They shared smiles for a moment and then Xander straightened up and made his way over to the coffee pot. He grabbed a mug off of the rack and filled it up, the fragrant steam billowing up into his face.
“God, this stuff smells good.”
Daniel gave him an odd little look and stepped closer to the coffee pot and made an almost protective gesture as if he were going to pull it away from Xander. For his part, Xander eyed Daniel seriously, the way he would if he had suddenly sprouted fangs and brow ridges.
“Like coffee, do you?”
Xander nodded slowly and wondered if their first fight was going to end up being over who got the last cup in the pot.
“Yeah. Started my love affair with coffee when I was this age the first time. Little place in my hometown called the Espresso Pump. Got hooked on the Turkish stuff living over in Cairo, though.” Xander paused and shot Daniel a huge toothy smile. “Killed a demon with a cup of Turkish coffee once. His kind being allergic to caffeine and all.”
Daniel’s eyes lit up and he seemed absolutely fascinated for a second or two. Then he took a deep breath and focused on the issue at hand.
“Okay, that’s amazing. I most definitely have to hear that story, but first…” Xander watched him squint and fidget a moment, “I don’t mind sharing my coffee, but I’m a touch fussy about it. I don’t like the cheap crap or that blight on mankind called instant. Also, as far as I’m concerned, there’s never a wrong time of the day to have coffee, so if you take the last cup and I’m here, you can never go wrong with making a fresh pot.”
Xander studied his host for a moment and then nodded his head slowly and seriously, “Right. No depriving the academic caffeine junkie of his coffee or expect a meltdown of chocolate-free slayer proportions. Got it.”
Smiling, Xander stuck out his free hand to Daniel as if to shake.
“You don’t sneak up behind me or startle me and I won’t drink the last cup in the pot. I’ll even go so far as to send out a heads-up if I notice we’re running low. Deal?”
Daniel reached out his own hand and they shook on it.
Downing the last of his coffee, Xander walked over to the sink and rinsed out his mug. He put it up on the rack to dry and turned around. Leaning against the counter, Xander scratched at his chin and marveled once again that he didn’t have to shave everyday anymore. It was just another little bit of the weirdness that was his life.
“I know that we aren’t supposed to go pick up J and Cassie from school until this afternoon for the big clothe-the-Xander shop-a-thon, but there are a few things I’d like to do before then if you don’t mind.”
“Johnny. You know; the mini-Jack?”
“Ah.” Daniel nodded even as he reached out to refill his mug with the last of the coffee in the pot. “What is it you wanted to do?”
“Well, the Air Force issued me a check to fund my supplies, so I want to go to the bank and open an account. Also, I want to find some sort of military surplus store and pick up some weapons and stuff.”
Daniel paused in the act of lifting his mug up to his mouth and goggled at Xander for a second before shaking out of it. Lowering his mug he shot Xander a careful and serious look.
“Xander…” his voice held calming tones of humor-the-lunatic in it. “You’ll be spending your time in a highschool surrounded by kids. They’re obnoxious, yes, but that’s not a threat level that requires weapons.”
Xander returned a look that was just as serious.
“Two things. One, I’m deliberately going to school there to protect a bunch of those obnoxious kids from shadowy mystery spies and military elements that will be armed to the teeth when, not if, but when they come. And two, I don’t feel comfortable going anywhere unarmed. Just standing here in the kitchen with only you and being unarmed makes me feel all wiggy and unsafe.”
Daniel looked like he didn’t know whether to be offended or a little scared.
“I’m not a threat to you Xander.”
“I believe you.” Xander was nodding in agreement. “But I can’t protect you unarmed as well as I could with a weapon, either. And…” his face twisted up in confusion of how to explain it, “Think of it as a cultural thing. Every person is pretty much taught to be comfortable with certain things and to be uncomfortable with others. This is one of those things.”
Daniel was nodding slightly even though his expression was one of disagreement. Xander gestured between the two of them.
“Look. You wouldn’t walk out of here and down into the street stark naked, right? Even if you were guaranteed legal amnesty and no repercussions, you would still put on clothes because nude jaywalking is not the done thing. Body modesty is a big cultural whachamacallit that’s reinforced over and over again in a myriad of ways.” Xander gestured at himself. “Right now, I’m the equivalent of balls in the wind naked.”
Daniel’s eyebrows made themselves at home in his hairline.
“And I want my axe back. I’ve had that puppy longer than you’ve been alive.” Xander pouted. “Besides, it was a birthday gift.”
Daniel just stared at him silently. The moment dragged out and began to be uncomfortable. Finally, the archeologist shook himself out of his thoughts and grinned weakly at Xander.
“You are a strange and disturbing individual.”
Xander offered up a lop-sided grin.
“And you’re not the first to say so.”
* - * - * - *
Last night while moving into Dr. Jackson’s condo Xander hadn’t really considered the weather. The SGC’s quartermaster had issued him a zippered sweat-jacket with the USAF logo on it and he’d worn it. This morning was bright and sunny, so long sleaved BDU’s and the jacket were enough to keep him warm. It felt like mid-winter for SoCal or Egypt. When his host pointed out that it was late October and that the weather would be turning icy cold within the next month or so, Xander began to think clothing as well as weapons.
Not that most students at the highschool he would be attending would do a lot of shopping at ‘Big Jim’s Military Surplus & Hunting Supplies’, but Xander planned on dropping a wad of cash here. He’d started with two heavy, utilitarian, military issued fighting knives with sheaths that Big D had proclaimed ‘ugly’, but that Xander thought were things of beauty. He’d followed that with a folding buck-knife for his boot and a double handful of slim throwing knives and sheaths.
That’s when Big D mentioned the weather, so Xander found himself a genuine Navy issue Peacoat and a genuine Marine Corps all weather over-coat that looked semi classy and would effectively hide his axe if worn in its leather rig.
And boots were big on his list of things to buy. It had been decades since he’d worn sneakers, but he loved boots. Hell, when he died, he was willing to lay down money that it would be boots first all the way. The SGC issued combat boots were sturdy and comfortable, but they were also easy to recognize for anyone in town that cared to look. So, he grabbed a pair of black engineers’ boots and a pair of dark tan construction boots. Both pair was reinforced with steel toes and shanks.
When Xander grabbed a heavy firewood hatchet from the camping section of the store, Dr. Daniel Jackson finally reached his limit. His face went through several contortions expressing confusion, enlightenment, horror and then settled into pained disbelief. Reaching out to grasp Xander’s shoulder despite the armful of stuff that he’d been loaded down with, Dr. Jackson hissed into his ear.
“What in the world do you need that for?! The apartment has heat! We won’t be cutting firewood!”
All hope drained from his face leaving only horror at Xander’s sincere reply.
“It’s to bury in the skull of any idiot super-spy that tries to nab one of the General’s kids.” The ‘duh’ tone of voice spoke louder than words that Dr. Jackson should have realized that instantly.
The hand on Xander’s shoulder tightened almost painfully and Dr. Jackson’s eyes went wide behind his glasses.
“We do not hack people apart! No matter what they do!”
Xander gave him a sad look with undertones of pity. The pity, however slight, was all directed inwards to himself and not at Daniel.
“No, Big D.” Xander shook his head gently and his voice was soft and sad. “You
don’t hack up people. I, on the other hand, plan to crack open the heads of whoever or whatever threatens my kids.”
Dr. Jackson opened his mouth to argue and Xander shook his head once sharply and held up a hand for silence.
His tone softened again. “Look, I realize that I clean up well and that I’ve got a stupid sense of humor and can be kinda laid-back. I love easily and am fanatically loyal to those I claim as my own. This fools people into thinking that I’m a nice guy that’s fun to know.”
Xander shook his head and stared down at the hatchet in his hands for a long moment before turning a piercing stare of sheer ruthless determination on Dr. Jackson.
“Truth is; I’m not a nice person. I’m ruthless and savage and cruel. I spent decades in the killing fields as a soldier and a commander. I’ve trained hundreds of slayers, watchers and mages in how to kill and how to survive.”
Xander hefted the hatchet and gave it an expertly executed twirl and flip to test its weight and balance before turning back to the horrified archeologist.
“When I first started out fighting demons and vamps, there was only one slayer called at a time. Their average lifespan post calling was less than a year. The Slayer Activation we did called all the Potentials so that we ended up with hundreds of slayers at once. Average lifespans were short at first until we found the survivors and trained them all. Once we did and finally had a system up in place, we were able to lengthen the average lifespan of a slayer post calling to six years. We eventually found that if they could somehow reach 10 years than they seemed to increase their survival odds considerably.”
Xander paused again and took at deep breath before turning that frighteningly fierce look on Dr. Jackson once again.
“Super-powered mystically enhanced fighters with full backup averaged six years. I, a normal simple human with no super-powers, lasted five and a half decades before coming here. That changes a man.”
Dr. Jackson’s eyes were tragic. Xander knew that Daniel had been witness to the memories floating in his head and as such he couldn’t deny what he’d just heard. But that didn’t mean that the gentle scholar liked it, or truly understood what that kind of long-term violence and terror did to a person. It effected how they viewed the world and themselves, it changed how a person lived and even how they thought.
He’d tried his best to absorb as much information about the SGC and its top people as he could in the short time that he’d been here. He knew that Dr. Jackson had faced loss and death and terror and had his entire world turned upside down. That pain had been tempered by discovering good friends, a worthwhile purpose, new and fascinating cultures and a deeper well deserved sense of self-confidence.
Xander figured that Big D was at a place in his life that was comparable to his own back in Sunnydale before Glory. He had a great job at the construction company, Anya and he were happy and in love, Buffy and Riley were still good, Willow and Tara were both alive and innocent and Giles was large and in charge at the Magic Box. Life was dangerous and exciting, everyone was happy and healthy, and no one had lost that sense of hope innate to all humans. Yet.
Glory was the straw that broke the camels’ back. They were never the same after that. Oh, they had all managed to find some sort of happiness again, but the hope was gone. Glory had changed them all too far to ever go back. Buffy had died. Spike’s spirit had broken. Tara lost any confidence in herself. Willow’s magic had been tainted. Giles committed his first murder. Anya finally accepted her own mortality. Dawn was completely shattered. And he lost any hope that the Powers really cared.
That’s when the Scoobies started to evolve from the plucky band of slayerettes into the hard core demon fighters that they’d grown to be.
Xander knew that until Dr. Jackson faced his own version of Glory and found himself broken and remade in her image that he wouldn’t understand. Until that time, Xander would remain a confusing and frightening mystery to the man. He found himself hoping that Dr. Jackson never reached that point, that his personal Glory would never find him. Dr. Daniel Jackson was, for all intents and purposes, an innocent and Xander liked him that way.
“Come on, Big D,” Xander’s voice was soft and soothing as he gently turned him around and aimed him at the overweight bearded man behind the counter, “it’s easier if you don’t think on it too much.”
“Let’s just pay for these and go.” Xander placed the axe on the counter and turned to start pulling stuff out of Daniel’s hands. “We’ve still got to go pick up J and Cassie from school before we can hit the mall.”
* - * - * - *
Xander hung back slightly and watched semi-amused as J and Cassie argued loudly over some brightly colored, shiny clubbing shirt. It seemed that J, much like himself, was a flannel and t-shirt kinda guy while Cassie wanted to dress Xander in trendy high-fashion. Xander was willing to admit that Cassie had great taste and that every outfit she picked out would look good, but he wasn’t trying to impress anyone with his clothes. He much preferred practicality and function over trend and fashion.
“Guys, guys, guys! Whoa!” He grinned when they both stopped shouting mid-argument to turn twin glares at him. “Let’s not fight over the little things.”
He twitched his head pointedly at the shirt Cassie was holding up. “Cass, that shirt is trendy, fashionable and hot. It’s the perfect thing for clubbing.” She smirked at J. “Of course, I would look like a lame wannabe in it and so it would never see the outside of my closet if I bought it.” J smirked back at her even as she frowned intently.
She opened her mouth to argue and he held up one hand to silence her, “Aht! Shhhh…”
“Cassie…I don’t go clubbing at trendy places. I don’t dance and I’m not looking to impress a bunch of ditzy fashion-plate teeny-boppers. MTV type shirts are sooo not my thing.” He grimaced and looked around at the racks of male-slut-wear and wondered how she had managed to drag both him and J into a store like this.
“Look, I’m a t-shirt and flannel guy like J. I don’t mind a few bits of fancy stuff, but nothing on this scale.” He gestured vaguely in the air, “If I have to dress up, I’d rather go classy than flashy. Know what I mean?”
Cassie ignored J and muttered ‘told ya so’ with the simply expedient of turning her back on him and hanging the glittery shirt back up on the rack. “I guess so…” Her tone wasn’t quite petulant, but it wasn’t happy. Xander decided to throw her a bone since he’d just trashed her hopes of dressing him up like some idiot pop-star.
“Actually, I could use your help with the whole suit thing. Like I said, I’m a t-shit guy and I know more about dressing for a safari than any fancy dinner party.” Xander reached out and clapped a hand on Dr. Jackson’s shoulder and flashed a slightly martyred grimace. “Big D here already warned me that he might end up dragging me to formal functions and stuff, so I need a classy suit good enough to wear for the General.”
By the time Xander was done explaining, Cassie was nodding her head and reaching out with one hand to snag Johnny with and making her way back to the front of the store and the main section of the mall beyond it.
Xander shared a small smirk with Daniel even as Johnny let out a little squeak of surprise and was dragged along in her wake. Cassie’s voice floated back, “Don’t worry Xan, there’s a men’s formal wear store here that has just what you need. We’ll find you the perfect suit.”
Xander snorted in amusement and gestured for Dr. Jackson to go first and then whispered in his ear as he walked past. “Do you think that J has any clue that the girl is crushing on him or is he totally oblivious?”
Daniel snorted back. “Oblivious. Completely clueless.”
Xander chuckled and nodded in agreement.
* - * - * - *
He stood in front of the perfume and makeup counter and gazed sadly at all the bottles, jars and pressed powders. There was a slight tremble in his hand as he reached out and slowly lifted one delicately cut glass bottle of pale liquid. His eyes misting up at the memories in his mind, he carefully pulled off the cap and held the perfume up to his nose and inhaled the delicate scent that wafted lightly around the bottle.
He turned a tragic face towards the compassionate eyes of his friend. Sorrow and understanding mixed in with just a touch of curiosity. Xander held up the bottle of fragrance for him to see.
“My second wife…this was her favorite.” Xander swallowed hard and looked away. He placed the cap back on and put the bottle back on the counter slowly. “She died three and a half years after we were married defending our infant son and my first wife who was pregnant at the time. Her sacrifice bought them enough time to escape the attack on our home.”
A strong hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed in sympathy. “I’m sorry.”
Xander nodded. “Yeah.”
Taking a deep breath, Xander pushed back the old hurts and forced a smile onto his face. Deliberately ignoring the siren call of the brands that his missing loves had favored, he reached out and grabbed up a box of aftershave that Cordy had enjoyed. Not that he hadn’t loved Cordy, because he had, but that part of his life was far enough away time-wise that it didn’t hurt to think of it or be reminded of it on a daily basis.
“So…wives? As in more than one at the same time?” J’s voice was pure curiosity. Xander smirked.
“Yeah.” He gestured vaguely at the perfume counter. “Four, actually.”
J’s jaw dropped. “How…?”
“About two years or so after the Activation of the Potentials we were pretty much reestablished as far as the Council went, but we were still tracking down the Slayers. Part of the problem was that it took us so long to actually get out there and find them and there was so few of us available to actually do it. That gave a lot of other people lots of time to discover the Slayers and put them into some messed up situations.”
Xander shrugged and walked past his friend and began heading to a display of wallets and money clips. Once J had caught up to him, he began looking through the selection and continued his story.
“Not all of the situations were bad, but most of them were. I was also in a part of the world that didn’t really hold to western standards or cultural mores. My first wife was a Slayer I ended up marrying because her family wouldn’t let her leave home unless she had a husband to care for her.” Xander shrugged. “According to her cultural traditions, any woman traveling without a male family member as escort would earn a horrible reputation as a wanton and loose…whore. She would have brought dishonor and the full force of the local religious leader’s anger down on her entire family.”
Xander crouched down and examined some of the items on the lower shelves almost absently.
“And I couldn’t leave her there. Word had gotten around the supernatural community about her and there were rumors that some demon clan leader had put a price on her head. She needed to be moved to safety and trained as soon as possible.” He grinned over at her friend sheepishly then, “It was a bit awkward because she was only fifteen years old at the time.”
He finally picked out a wallet and shuffled it over to the pile of stuff growing in one arm. J just looked at him with a strange expression on his face as if he didn’t know whether or not to smack him one or smile at him. Xander just grinned and huffed out a soft laugh.
“I didn’t touch her more than was required for the ceremony. I swear.” Xander shook his head fondly at the memories. “Much to her great chagrin.”
J nodded, “Cool.”
They were quiet for a while as Xander lead them over to where the belts were. He had one that was fancy and went with the suit Cassie had picked out. Now he wanted one for plain everyday use.
“My second wife was a Slayer that I helped rescue from a demonic black market that specialized in capturing witches and slayers to sell, either as slaves or in pieces as spell components. We started dating about a month after she was released from the hospital. It was a whirlwind romance that still leaves me dizzy to think about. God, I loved her.”
Johnny smiled at him as he quickly picked out a plain brown leather belt. They slowly began to move towards the display of gloves and scarves.
“Wife number three was a Slayer that was cursed by a demon. Curse would have killed her if she didn’t form a mystic bond type thing with someone who fit a very specific set of terms. I was the only person that they knew and trusted who fit the bill that was close enough to get to her before the curse ended up killing her.” Xander shrugged and flashed Johnny a wry grin. “Not a traditional marriage ceremony, I know. Then again, it wasn’t exactly a traditional marriage.”
J snorted a little noise that was half awe and half disbelief. Xander nodded in sympathy. He barely believed it himself and he had lived it.
“Those three happened pretty close to one another. Wife number four was a linguist and researcher who came into my life much much later, after most of my kids were grown. It was a…sweet and sappy romance, all things considered.”
Xander grinned again. “Yeah. Three Slayers and a Watcher.”
Xander’s smile slipped slightly. “Wife number two didn’t live long enough to meet wife number four, but…I loved them all, each in their own way.”
J was nodding, but his face was sad and his eyes were far away.
“Hey, man. What is it?”
J opened his mouth, paused and shook his head.
“No, tell me. I can see something’s got you stirred up.”
“It never really occurred to me,” Johnny said in a soft voice, “that you would have left any family behind when you came here. I mean, I know that you were commanding a force of fighters, but…I didn’t think in terms of family. Ya know?”
“I left two surviving wives, five daughters and two sons.” He smiled at his friend, but his eyes were haunted, “six grandchildren and three pseudo-family members from SunnyD.” Xander tilted his head slightly, “Although I don’t know if Willow can really be classified as alive anymore.”
Xander smiled sadly, “Yeah.”
* - * - * - *
“Come on, guys!”
Cassie had one hand holding onto Johnny and the other holding onto Xander as she drug them down the street towards a glass fronted salon with a big sign proclaiming ‘In Style Beauty Spa’ in glowing letters.
“But…” Xander looked over his shoulder forlornly at the Pizza Palace. “Food, Cassie! Food!”
Daniel Jackson brought up the rear of the group, snickering unhelpfully.
“Later.” Cassie turned her head and glared at Xander. It failed to impress him in the least. He’d been glared at by the best. “You need to get that mop you call your hair cut, Xan.”
“But, it’s pizza.” His tone indicated that she wasn’t quite bright if she didn’t understand the importance of consuming mass quantities of the stuff.
“Xan…” Cassie pouted at him.
Xander steeled himself and frowned at her. She pouted harder, her eyes going big and wet even as her bottom lip quivered slightly. He lasted a full three seconds before melting like a marshmallow in the sun. Shoulders slumping, he nodded. “Fine.” His tone wasn’t totally petulant, but it was a close thing.
Cassie beamed at him and pulled him forward even faster.
Letting go of their hands, she pulled open the door and shoved him into the building. “You’ll love this place, I swear. They do wonders with even the worst hair.”
Xander and J glanced at each other and rolled their eyes.
The place was done up in creams with accents in gold and pink. The reception area had several faux-leather chairs grouped around end tables littered with fashion and stylist trade magazines. Photos of supermodels hung on the walls. An overly perky blonde receptionist sat behind a large counter. It was the kind of place that any of his girls would have loved, but that he tried to avoid like the plague if at all possible.
Dr. Jackson walked up behind them with a faintly amused look on his face, “Oh stop grimacing. It’s just a fancy barber shop. It’s not like you’ll be asked to wrestle a gorilla or something.”
“I’d rather wrestle a gorilla,” was Johnny’s muttered response.
Both Daniel and Xander snorted even as Daniel pushed them towards the counter where Cassie was chatting with the receptionist. Just as they got to the counter, Cassie grabbed his arm and yanked him over to her.
“This is him.” Cassie smiled at the woman behind the counter wearing a nametag that labeled her as Pamela. “See what I mean?”
The woman, Pamela, was nodding her head in agreement to whatever it was Cassie had told her. “Oh, yeah. He has definite potential, but that hair cut is just criminal. It’s far too long and is hiding his big beautiful brown eyes. However, it looks to be nicely thick and healthy.”
Xander snorted. Cassie elbowed him in the ribs.
Pamela tilted her head. “He would also look good with some subtle highlighting to lighten up the dark hair and eyes combo.”
Cassie turned her head to look at him, her expression thoughtful. Xander didn’t give her time to comment, however.
“No!” He shook his head. “No, just…no.”
Cassie started to open her mouth to argue or whatever, but Xander was firm on this. It was bad enough that he saw ghosts of the past whenever he looked in the mirror. He refused to look in one and see a complete stranger.
“No, Cass. I just want a nice simple haircut. Nothing fancy. No hairgel. No hair dye. No highlights or frosting or tips or whatever. Just…no.”
She tried one last time. She pouted and whined, “But Xander….”
He wasn’t willing to budge. Not on this. His self-identity was shaky already, what with being de-aged and tossed into a whole new dimension. No way was he willing to look in a mirror and not recognize himself.
“No.” He scowled at her. “Look, Cass. I can very easily walk out of here and head down the street to the nearest barber shop. I’ll get my simple haircut without the fuss for a fraction of the cost. No skin off my nose.”
She scowled back at him for a moment. When he didn’t waver or give in, she sighed and nodded. “Fine,” she huffed. “No highlights, just a simple wash and cut.”
Pamela had sat quietly and watched the argument with a little smile on her face and Xander didn’t even want to know what she was thinking. And he ignored her when she turned a faintly sympathetic look to Cassie while she put his request through. For himself, he was just glad that Cassie didn’t feel as comfortable yelling at him in public as his girls did or he never would have gotten away with that.
“Body waxing?!” J’s strident voice cut through the air, “what the hell is that?”
Xander turned around to see him and Big D looking through a small printed pamphlet with the salon’s logo on the front.
“It’s when they take melted wax and pour it on your body, slap a piece of paper or cloth over it and wait for the wax to cool and harden. Then they rip the paper and wax off of you and all your body hair goes with it.” Xander shrugged. “Supposed to hurt a lot, but it lasts longer than regular shaving.”
Both Daniel and Johnny cringed at that thought.
“People actually do that to themselves?” Dr. Jackson was mystified.
Xander just shrugged and nodded while Cassie looked at them as if they were idiots.
They both just shuddered. Then Johnny looked over at Xander thoughtfully before finally smirking. It was a decidedly evil look for such a young face.
Xander scowled back at him, “Don’t even think about it J! Anyone comes at me with hot wax and I’ll know it was you that sent them. And I will get even.”
“Me? Xan, I’d never….” Johnny tried his best to look innocent, but no one really believed it.
Just then, a short brunette with sparkling blue eyes and a wide smile stepped out of the back wearing a bright pink smock and a nametag that read Tammy. She wandered over to Pamela and took a small card from her and glanced down at it briefly before looking up and smiling at the group of them.
“Is Alexander here?”
Sighing, Xander nodded and stepped forward. “That’s me.”
“Great. Come on into the back and we’ll get you shampooed and ready for Joshua. He’ll be the one cutting your hair today.”
With another sigh, Xander followed her.
* - * - * - *
Xander shifted his packages higher in his arms and waited for the elevator to ding. As soon as it did, the doors slid open and he followed Dr. Jackson out into the hallway towards the condo they were living in. Both of them were lugging a lot of surprisingly heavy bags.
Daniel came to a stuttering stop before walking forward again, his voice carrying tones of surprise, “Jack?”
Xander leaned slightly to peer around the archeologist’s shoulder only to see Colonel O’Neill leaning against the wall holding up a small cardboard box.
“Hey Danny.” Jack held up the box slightly, “I brought Chinese food. Figured you guys would be hungry after chasing Cassie through the mall all day.”
“Thanks, Jack.” The smile was evident in Daniel’s voice. “That sounds wonderful.”
Jack reached out and took the keys from Daniel’s overly full hands. “Here, let me get that.”
The door swung open and all three of them trooped in. Daniel and Xander headed straight for his bedroom to put the bags down.
“What did you guys do, buy out the whole store?”
Xander snorted. “There’s more in the car. This is just the first load, man.”
He walked back out of the bedroom and towards the front door. Grinning at the slightly stunned look on the Colonel’s face, Xander chuckled. “What? I literally had to buy everything from scratch. I had nothing that wasn’t SGC issued.”
Jack looked slightly skeptical but nodded in agreement anyway. “Sure thing, kid.”
Xander just smirked. “I’m gonna head down to the car and get the rest of the bags. Be back up in a minute.”
Jack nodded. “No problem. We’ll save some wanton for ya.”
Xander nodded and headed back out of the condo. As he shut the door he could hear Big D walk back into the kitchen and start chatting with the Colonel. He grinned and shook his head even as he headed back to the elevator.
The Chinese food was a nice and welcome touch, but all in all, Xander thought the Colonel was pretty obvious. He felt a slight pang at the lack of trust, but couldn’t really complain because all things considered, he would do the same if the situation was reversed. Still, he wondered how long it would be before the rest of SG-1 stopped checking up on him and Daniel to make certain he hadn’t killed the man in his sleep.
Not that Xander thought they really considered that to be a serious possibility. No, it was more that he was, for the most part, an unknown and untested soldier whose loyalties were shaky at best. That they were willing to give him the chance to prove himself spoke loudly of their character, but that didn’t mean that they were stupid or pushovers.
Xander smiled as the elevator dinged and opened up onto the main lobby of the condominium. That was okay, he had a feeling that he would be here for the long term and he was willing to prove himself because he believed that these people would prove worthy of his efforts.