Ch 33 In Which there are Axe-wielding Barbarians.
I'm not rich and don't have a Xander-, Greg-, Spike-, or Oz-shaped love slave so the disclaimers in Ch1 must still apply.
Xander and Greg circled each other, thrusting and parrying, dancing to the violent tune of the clanging blades. Greg was good, better than Xander had expected, but then he’d been studying with the twins longer. Normally, the older set of Immortals didn’t have their students sparing but they’d declared that sparing against different opponents was good for you and set them at each other.
Suddenly Greg made a quick lunge forward and Xander narrowing missed being gutted by throwing himself back onto his back. It was a situation that was plenty familiar to him from vamp hunting. Thrusting his axe upward, the sharpened tip bit into Greg’s chest. Greg stumbled back, and Xander rolled back to his feet. Greg deflected the following blow but he was clearly weakened by the wound in his chest. Xander deliberately swung his axe just a bit too far, and when Greg countered Xander felt a surge of triumph. He quickly twisted the handle of his axe and caught Greg’s hand, cutting him and making him drop his sword. Xander brought his axe to Greg’s neck.
“I win,” he panted.
“Alright, you axe-wielding barbarian, you win,” he admitted, clutching his healing hand to his slightly more healed chest.
Xander helped his friend up, checking his own mostly healed cuts. Greg had gotten in a few good ones.
Their Teachers approached.
“Well done, both of you,” Diane said. She eyed Greg’s hand. “However, it looks like a few lessons against ‘axe-wielding barbarians’ are in order for you. Alexander is not the only Immortal with that preference.”
Greg nodded, and they walked away.
Delvin waited until they were out of hearing to say, “You did really well toward the end. What changed?”
“What do you mean?” Xander asked, sitting to clean his axe.
“At the start you did okay, but you were acting like it was a drill instead of a spar. I thought he’d beat you for certain,” Delvin explained frankly.
“I’m not sure I can explain it. When we started I felt…dunno, stiff and nervous but not nervous-nervous. But…as we got into it, I realize how good he was, better than I thought at first. When he started to win it was like a switch was flipped. I felt looser and calmer and…” he shrugged. “I don’t know, just more into it, I guess.”
“Hm.” Delvin frowned thoughtfully. “Well, I was pleased with the turn out, but had he been less nervous himself, he’d have won in the first few minutes. You used the axe well, but that was also due to his lack of practice against one. That’s an asset to you because so few Immortals use them, but not everyone will be so inexperienced. Most, but not all. Still, I’m proud of you. Go shower. Oz ordered pizza that will be here soon.”
Xander smiled sunnily at his Teacher’s praise and the prospect of pizza. He wasn’t deaf to the criticisms but was coming to understand that Delvin would help him work through the problems rather than just pointing out his flaws and leaving him to deal with them.
“He’s used to fighting with little chance of winning.”
Delvin turned to the vampire in the doorway of the training room. Spike looked at him with serious eyes. Delvin almost saw William peeking out.
“He’s used to fighting with little chance of winning,” he repeated, his accent more polished than his usual. “But somehow, he’s always won anyway. Against bigger, stronger, and better trained, he won anyway, even if it was only because of his little friends.”
“He’s a life or death fighter,” Delvin agreed. “Until he felt outclassed he didn’t even know how to try. That’s too dangerous for me to let continue, but I’m not certain how to train that particular instinct out of him.”
Spike shrugged. “Hammer into his head that no kill will be easy and every fight will be life or death. As it is, the boy functions as a kamikaze. He never expects to walk away from a fight. Not sure it’s a good thing but it means he always gives it everything he’s got. He’s never just known he can win before.”
“And he saw Greg as an easy target, and that held him back,” Delvin realized. “That won’t do at all.”
Delvin began to walk toward the shower but Spike’s voice stopped him.
“He sees it as bullying, or preying on the weak. If he knows he can win, that is. Dunno how yer gunna convince him it aint like that,” the vampire said, slipping back into his gutter-snipe accent. Delvin was shocked that it didn’t annoy him to hear it.
“I don’t either,” Delvin admitted. “But he can’t derive strength from fatalism. Not forever.”
He walked back to where Spike was standing. Spike’s nostrils’ flared, and his eyes grew wary. Delvin felt a flash of pain at that but buried it quickly.
“Yer right,” Spike said. “Sooner or later, I guess you’ll just havta convince the boy how good he is.”
“Hm, that’s not a bad idea,” Delvin murmured, staring at Spike’s lips. He caught himself as the doorbell chimed. “Guess I should get the pizza.”
“Yeah,” Spike answered, drawing out of his own trance. “I’ll just…”
“We always have extra if you feel like useless human food,” Delvin offered, calling himself ten kinds of idiot. He walked off without another word, part of him very pleased to hear the vampire’s quiet steps behind him.