A/N: Disclaimer's in the first chapter. Giles is NOT a bad guy. He just unfortunately only has Watcher-approved training methods to train Buffy with.
August 1, Cascade
Xander hated Jim. Loathed him. Despised him. Willow agreed with him wholeheartedly, and even Buffy had gotten more than a bit grumpy lately.
Every evening, just after dusk, they all got dragged out of the apartment and worked over. First was a trip outside, to stretch. Then, depending on the night, one of several things happened. Some days they did speed running drills, push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, and the like. Others, there was long-distance running to build stamina. Twice a week, they got run through an obstacle course that had been set up for them in an abandoned lot. Every night, there was also sparring practice, always outside in the dark in a variety of places, to help them learn to fight in any terrain and in any weather.
On the nights they didn't have the long-distance running, they did get a couple of hours indoors, when Jim and Jon drilled them in new moves. One of the first things they were all taught was how to fall safely. They were also taught new Krav Maga moves, weapon drills, and suchlike things in the basement. This allowed them to learn the new moves with a minimum of distractions before they had to practice them in the outdoor drills.
Xander, of course, had lagged behind everyone else at first. Fortunately, the lag hadn't been as bad as it could have been. His stomach muscles had gotten torn up, and his arms severely messed up, which meant having to rebuild a bit of muscle strength, of course. Fortunately, however, Xander hadn't added two or three months of inactivity and no lifting much of anything on top of the original damage, just three weeks worth. So he'd lagged behind the first week and a half, but then caught up to where he needed to be.
Xander had discovered, thanks to the weapon drills, that he tended to do very well with a stake, battle axe, and dagger in the short-range stuff. As Jim put it, Xander was damn good at stabbing and hacking at short range. Not so much with the slicing at slightly longer range that happened with a sword. Xander was quite happy with that, since swords were damn hard to hide and keep near to hand compared to the others.
Xander was also the only one in the group who could deal with more than crossbows in the long-range stuff. Buffy flat-out refused to do more than touch a gun to pick it up when Jon made them learn how to deal with them, and Willow hadn't been much behind her. As a result, Xander had decided to learn as much as he could, and quickly discovered he was a pretty good shot. He probably had all those video games to thank for that one. While he wasn't a crack shot, he could consistently hit center mass somewhere, which was good enough for him for the moment, and something he could work on to improve. And the group would at least have two people who understood and could handle guns, if the need came up.
It was fast becoming clear though, that Willow was going to have to be research girl for the most part. She managed stakes just fine, but most other weapons gave her trouble. Not that there was anything wrong with being research girl. She certainly had the brains for it, and had even begun to develop (with Blair's assistance) a computer program that listed demonic species by name, physical description, and threat level so that they didn't have to go hunting through thirty books to find what they were facing. Sadly, that program would take months or years to finish, but it would still come in handy.
Buffy, on the other hand, was becoming downright scary. Once she'd got over her initial pique (which hadn't taken long), she'd buckled down and really started to work. Jim and Jon both were pushing her as hard as they could, giving her the benefit of every scrap of their military training, and she was soaking it up (complaining about it, but soaking it up). She learned the Krav Maga moves at a truly frightening rate, and picked up on most of the military training except for guns just as fast. She'd already gotten to the point were Jim and Jon were talking about asking Angel up here for a while, since neither of them could match her speed in sparring, and she really, really needed to practice her moves against something that moved at the speed she did. Jim wasn't any too happy about that idea, but admitted it was necessary.
Both Jim and Jon had taken each of them aside for some serious talks about being soldiers. Not in an effort to get them to join the military, but to talk about the impact the sort of crap soldiers had to deal with had on them. The Scoobies, after all, might not be wearing fatigues, but they were definitely up to their eyebrows in a war. Xander had no idea what had been said to Buffy or Willow, since they hadn't talked about it, but his own talk with both men had given him a lot to think about.
And as if all of that weren't enough, Giles had come up after the first week, and they spent afternoons drilling in recognizing the most common demons by sight, and how to kill the dangerous ones. Giles was also starting to teach them how to read the most common languages that the books in his collection were written in, to make researching easier. He'd also taken a vested interest in the physical training, and had begun to participate when he saw just how much Buffy was learning, grumbling about the Council under his breath the whole time.
And on top of that, Jon and Xander had Sentinel and Guide training with Blair and Jim. For Jon, that meant learning what various scents and sounds that he picked up on were, including how to tell a real argument, siren, or what have you from something that was on TV, as well as learning which smells meant someone was scared out of their mind versus pissed off, among other things. They got a lot of practice on heading off zones and breaking Jon out of them in the process. They did a lot of experimenting with fabrics and foods and soaps and things, seeing what Jon could tolerate and what he couldn't. Here, they lucked out. While Jon got rashes from too-rough clothing or too-harsh soaps and detergents, he didn't seem to have the outright allergies that Jim did. Other than that quirk, the two men were quite similar in most respects.
Blair worked with Xander on the solely Guide bits, like learning to stay calm when something happened, because a panicking Guide was never a good thing. It either made their Sentinel go all Blessed Protector … and Xander had laughed quite a bit when Blair had described that phenomenon, and had called it the Mother Hen From Hell Syndrome … or their Sentinel wouldn't get the help they needed as fast as they needed it, which was very bad. Blair'd used one of his first acts as Jim's Guide, before they'd either of them admitted that's what they were, as an example of that. Xander had cringed at the thought of what could have happened if Blair had panicked with that garbage truck barreling down on Jim. Blair also taught him about a few tricks to help keep Jon from zoning that he wasn't ready to use yet, like piggybacking one sense with another.
And while Xander thought it was a bit kooky (and Jon agreed with him), he was also learning to deal with the spiritual side, because it was rather blatantly obvious to them both that, kooky or not, it existed. That meant learning to meditate and 'listening' for any hints from the spirit plane as well as keeping a sharp eye out for either of their spirit animals. Blair was also trying to help Xander get a bit more comfortable with his spirit animal. Not that it was working. Xander had issues when it came to hyenas, and that wasn't going to change anytime soon.
So to say their days were busy was an understatement. Usually, they had to be forcibly dragged out of bed around nine in the morning, spent the daylight hours in one activity or another, headed out at dusk and didn't come back in to sleep until midnight or one in the morning. Fortunately, neither Jim nor Jon were slave drivers, and allowed them days off to kick back and relax now and again.
But despite the severe dislike for the torture they were undergoing, Xander was getting to know, and like, Jim. They'd probably never be father-sonish, Xander was really too old and jaded for that, but they were definitely comfortable with each other, and Xander thought Jim was pretty cool and someone he could turn to for advice if he needed it. Fortunately, Jim wasn't throwing a fit about not being called Dad or being treated like a dad. Actually, Xander had a feeling that Jim would freak a bit if Xander ever called him that and meant it, rather than saying it to play-taunt him.
Xander was also getting to know Jon (and vice versa), and that was going even better. They had very similar temperaments and senses of humor, and had a lot of fun snarking back and forth. Xander was able to help Jon get a handle on understanding and speaking the current California teen lingo, and Jon rather appreciated the fact that Xander had little interest in the typical teenage activities. There was still an age gap, of course, because his disinterest in idiot teenage activities aside, Xander was still a teenager, and hadn't yet matured mentally and emotionally into an adult, but after a year of weirdness in Sunnydale, Xander could handle getting adult advice and guidance from someone who looked his age.
As far as Jon was concerned, he'd found Nirvana. The Scoobies knew who and what he really was. Xander had refused point-blank to keep them in the dark. They hadn't done much more than blink during the initial revelation. Since then, it'd been accepted as a matter of course.
Today was a different day than usual. They'd quit early last night in order to get a good night's sleep, because today they were returning to Sunnydale for a day trip and recon. They'd had an early morning flight to give them as much time as possible in Sunnydale today, and they wouldn't be returning to Cascade until tomorrow morning, to give Jim and Jon a chance to observe the usual nightly mayhem and the Scoobies' usual routine.
Xander was sitting next to Jon in the middle seat of the van, Jim was driving with Blair riding shotgun, and Giles and the girls were in the back seat.
"All right gang. There's the Sunnydale sign. The thing should read 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.'." Xander snarked.
Jim drove them through the entire town, with Xander and the rest of the Scoobies alternating pointing out various points of interest. Xander was intrigued to discover that Jim's reaction to Angel hadn't been a once-off. He'd started tensing up a couple miles outside Sunnydale. Better yet, Jon had started to tense up shortly after Jim had. Both had given certain places … and not all of those places were ones the Scoobies introduced as demon havens … death glares and the school had gotten a pair of pissed-off growls. Once they'd done an initial drive-through, Jim parked the van in front of Buffy's place and they all piled out, to be greeted by Joyce.
Jim and Jon both had had rather strong opinions on telling Joyce about Buffy and what she did. Neither of them had liked the idea of Buffy lying to her mother. Eventually, Buffy had decided they had a point, if for no other reason than that Joyce deserved to know what had really happened to her daughter if and when Buffy died. So they'd planned on dragging Angel out of his hidey-hole and making him play show and tell again later tonight, so Joyce had proof. And no, Xander wasn't snickering at Angel being show-and-tell again at all.
Xander damn near got hugged to death by Joyce when he walked in the house, and Joyce marveled at how healed he was and how good he was looking. They had lunch, then went for a daytime stroll so Jim and Jon could get a closer look at the town before things got dangerous. Xander made a mental note of the places that Jim and Jon reacted to the most strongly that weren't on the Scoobies' trouble radar. Then it was time for dinner.
Eventually, dusk fell, and Angel arrived, looking much put-upon. Giles sat Joyce down and explained the whole demons and Slayers thing. Joyce stared at a vamp-faced Angel for about a minute in silence before she broke down in horrified tears and hugged Buffy.
"I'm so sorry, sweetheart." Joyce said when she calmed down a bit. Xander knew she was referring to the whole 'throw Buffy in a padded cell' thing.
Buffy gave her mom another hug. "It's ok, mom. Not like it's something easy to believe or obvious, you know?"
Joyce then stared at Giles and Jim. "You're teaching her?"
Both men nodded. "Everything we can." Jim confirmed. "And from what Giles has told us, the vast majority of it is stuff that's normally not taught to Slayers. I'm really, really not liking this Watcher's Council, to be honest."
And in Jon's case, that was putting it mildly as hell. When Jon had got the full story on the Council, he'd thrown an epic, ranting fit and had wanted (probably still did) to drop a bomb on the idiots. Not that Xander disagreed with that.
And then Joyce calmly got up and got right in Angel's face. "As for you … if you ever so much as look at my daughter wrong, I will take great pleasure in dousing you with gasoline and lighting a match … are we clear?"
Xander didn't blame Angel for looking a touch startled and alarmed, because he'd had no idea Joyce could sound like that. He was beginning to see where Buffy got her fierce side from, now, because damn. He wanted to run and hide, and he wasn't even the focus of Joyce's ire.
They spent another hour or so talking about things, which had resulted in Xander getting a rib-crushing hug when the whole CPR thing came to light. And got Angel a pissed-off death glare. And resulted in a lot of angry muttering when the whole 'the Harrises suck, oh, and Jim's my dad' thing came up. When they finally wound down and got ready to head out, Joyce insisted on going with.
Halfway through their town walk-through, Xander sidled up next to Buffy. "You know, I think we could just hand your mom a sword and tell her somebody hurt you, then grab some popcorn and watch the show, and you'd never have to patrol again."
Buffy gave him an amused grin. "I know, right?" She sighed. "I'm glad you guys pushed to do this. It … it'll be nice, not having to hide it from mom."
"And having someone else who's looking like she's going to back you to the hilt. I will not be at all shocked if she asks Jim to teach her a few things. And I truly pity the Council if any of them show up here. She's going to crucify them."
It being August, they didn't run across anything demonic until they went into Willie's Bar. Even there, there'd only been a half-dozen demons, only one of them a vamp. Which ran like hell when it spotted Buffy. So did two of the other, smaller demons. Only the three big ones stayed, and even they eyed her warily. Joyce's eyes had gotten very big at the sight of them. Jim and Jon had just given the entire room a death-glare and growled almost non-stop until they headed back out. Even then, Blair and Xander almost had to drag their respective Sentinels out of the room.
Once the general night tour was done, the Scoobies led Jim, Jon, and Joyce on their usual patrol routes before they finally called it a night and headed in.
"You're wanting to come back, aren't you?" Joyce asked Xander when they got back into the house, sans Angel, who'd slouched off before they went on the patrol routes.
Xander knew she'd initially assumed he'd be staying with Jim, once she'd found out Jim was his father. "Yeah. Yeah I am. I can't … I can't walk away from this, Mrs. Summers. I just can't. Even if Buffy wasn't a factor, I had to stake one of my best friends. I really, really don't want anyone else to lose someone like that if I can help it. I know I can't stop it all, but damnit, if I can keep one person alive who would otherwise have got eaten or turned, it's damn well worth it. And Buffy is a factor, because she needs all the help she can get in this damn town. Giles told us there's never been a Slayer stationed on an active Hellmouth before, that he knows of. Expecting her to handle this place alone is stupid as hell."
Joyce nodded. "Then you and Jon can live here with us. We've got the guest room upstairs, or we can convert part of the basement if you'd rather. That way you boys don't have to worry about having to get a job to afford someplace to live, and can concentrate on school." And slaying, but she didn't need to say that.
Xander and Jon looked at each other. "The guest room, and two twin beds, would probably be best, Mrs. Summers, as we're probably going to end up turning your basement into a training area when we get back." Jon finally said.
Xander wasn't about to argue. Buffy was a huge freaking target, and having backup living at her house was a good idea. It protected her and her mother both, as well as giving Xander and Jon somewhere to live without worrying about rent. Not that they'd have had to, since Jim had said he'd take care of that, but still. Xander liked this idea.
Eventually, they headed to bed, and the next morning they headed back to Cascade and another few weeks of training hell.