Time, they said, healed all wounds. This was true enough for most. Time also tended to cause people a lot of ulcers. This was very apparent with one Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris and one Kennedy Ford. Rather, it was time that had been misplaced, altered, warped or just plain pooch screwed that was causing them ulcers. Very little of what they ‘knew’ was, indeed, fact anymore; sure, some of the broad strokes were still there, like places, names and faces, but a few of the major ones had been changed. Case in point, Kennedy’s own age and her family being in Sunnydale. That wasn’t supposed to be right. Another point of contention was the lack of one Cordelia Chase and her family and the fact that Kennedy’s family was living in ‘their’ house.
Other things, of course, were not right. Jesse was alive, as was Darla (well, as alive and undusted as a vampire could be), and she even had a soul like Angel had. That, though, was another change; Angelus was still around, knocking about with Spike and Drusilla, though they were apparently in Europe somewhere and had been for the past century. The how’s and whys of this were not clear but it was enough to give Xander a headache.
The headaches, though, were not only his. Kennedy was dealing with a big headache; her sister was gone. She had never existed, to be precise. It was something both had joked about, about how one would not lose any sleep if the other were suddenly gone, but this had hit her like a ton of bricks and she’d cried for nearly half a day off and on. Xander had done what he could to help her but it was something she’d be forced to deal with.
Another headache was that her tutor, retired Sergeant First Class Michael Thoms, was there and more than eager to put her ‘best friend’ to work, helping run her into the ground and to hone her edge. There were times that she truly hated the man, hated him with every ounce of her being, but sometimes she didn’t have the energy to hate him… like now.
“Stop lying down on the job, Ford. Harris has almost caught up with you!” the former Special Forces sergeant shouted at her as she dove under the water and turned, pushing off of the pool with noodle-like legs.
“He’s part fish!” she managed to spit back after a few strokes, an act that nearly made her take in a mouthful of chlorinated water.
“And he’s still kicking your ass.”
Kennedy glared at the man but pushed harder. Her parents had hired him to tutor her when she’d been ‘found’ by the Council, saying that they could do a better job with her training than said Council and, for years, had gotten her the best and brightest. Sergeant Thoms took no prisoners and no shit from anyone, expected perfection and demanded the utmost physical effort in _everything_ she did… and then some. Objectively she knew that he was pushing her hard because, as the old saying went, ‘the more you sweated in practice, the less you bled in combat’, but she was only sixteen!
Xander passed her again and splashed a little water her way as she came up for air. Asshole.
“Stop flirting with her, Harris. You just bought you both another five laps!”
“Oh-rah!” Xander shouted back as he made the turn and kicked off.
Seven laps later the pair were allowed out of the pool for a half-hour to hydrate, eat something and for Kennedy’s legs to stop being made out of rubber. ‘I miss being a Slayer,’ she thought as she laid back in her black single-piece swimsuit, her right leg in the air and Xander slowly pushing against it to stretch out the tightness that had formed. He was in slightly better condition due to… well, she wasn’t quite sure why, but the fact remained that he wasn’t getting tight in the legs or anything else and, as such, was helping her out.
“You alright, Kennedy?”
“Peachy,” she spat as she lowered one leg and lifted the other.
“Aw, done be like that. It’ll make me think you don’t love me anymore.” He said with a great deal of cheek to her as he slowly worked her leg up and then over.
“Bite me, Harris,” she hissed a little as her hamstring resisted going its natural distance. She then yelped a second later as Xander did just that. “What the hell-“
“Hey, you told me to.” There was an impish look in his eyes (another fact she had needed a day or two to get used to) that made her want to smile. It was… infectious, in the same way that yawning was, but it also made her stomach twist a little in ways that made her not smile.
“And if I told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too?”
“Only if we were strapped together on a bungee cord or I pushed you first.” Xander told her with a merry grin.
Kennedy frowned for a second before she pushed back with her leg, a signal for him to slowly lower it. Sitting up, she grabbed her water and asked him, “Okay, what’s wrong?”
“Wrong? Who said anything is wrong? I demand to know-“
She squirted him in the face with some of her water, making him shut up, “You’ve been acting like you’re fifteen years old, Xander. I _know_ you better than that.”
“Do you?” he asked her quietly, his eyes suddenly very serious. “Do you really? Do you really have any _clue_ what’s going on in my head right now? The list of people that I’ve already made that should or are going to die in the very near future? The longer list of people that I’m going to move heaven and hell to save? The ever-growing list of things that are so very FUBAR with this world?”
“Do I? No. Have you considered that this world is very different and they might not have done what you know they’ve done or do what they might do?” Kennedy fired back. “Who are you to pass judgment, Xander?”
“I’m someone who sees what evil does when good men and women do nothing, Kennedy.” Xander said after a few quiet moments. “I’m someone who was lucky enough to survive. I’m someone who isn’t passive enough to let them get another shot at the brass ring. If that means I have to kill them… so be it.”
“Who says you have to kill them, though? Can’t you just screw with their plans? What about rule…” Crap. She couldn’t remember which rule was the ‘no killing humans’ one. Xander had so very many of them and they always seemed to change for every given situation. “No killing humans, remember?”
This made Xander deflate a little as he sat down, water still dripping from his face. He looked her in the eyes and, for a split second, she thought that she was looking into her great-grandfather’s eyes. The man had lived through two world wars, a half-dozen ‘police actions’ around the world and had buried more than a few friends, lovers, wives and children and it showed in his eyes. Those eyes, though, vanished as he shook his head and grumbled something under his breath, getting to his feet and holding his hand out to her. “Come on, Ken, we’re keeping the torturer waiting.”
Kennedy groaned. It sounded like a whine. She didn’t whine, though. Whining got extra reps of whatever it was that they were about to get put through.
Watching all of this from his office, Michael smiled as he could almost hear his daughter try and cover her whine as Alexander helped her to her feet. ‘Such a nice young man.’
“Did she whine?” Michael turned and smiled at Louise, his wife, and she chuckled, shaking her head, “Do you think she’ll ever learn?”
“Probably, my dear, but that will only make Sergeant Thoms work harder to work her even harder. I do believe he thinks Alexander is a godsend.” Indeed, Kennedy’s young friend of a few months had indeed helped push her own training further, often with snappy one-liners and questions of her intestinal fortitude. One of those, though, had gotten the retired soldier’s dander up a bit and he’d challenged Alexander to do better. Alexander, though, was game and had stripped off his shirt and dove into the pool, making up the four laps he was down already and then surpassing Kennedy. It wasn’t to say that this was always the case, but the boy did put on a good show.
“Admit it, Michael,” Louise said, walking over and hugging him from behind. “You’re just hoping that she forgets her silly little phase and starts liking boys.”
“If I didn’t know my daughter any better, I would call it a phase, Louise. As it stands, I’ll settle for her deciding that bisexuality is an open option to her.” It had been a bit of a shock when Kennedy had informed him and Louise a few years prior that she liked girls and would marry a girl one day in the future. Louise, of course, had taken it as a joke and, later, as a ‘phase’, but Michael knew just how hard-headed and determined his daughter could be. While she had had friends whom were boys, she had never had ‘boyfriends’. Alexander, though… ‘Hopes springs eternal,’ Michael thought as the Sergeant lit into the pair for ‘slacking’ and ‘fraternization’.
“One can always hope.”
AN: Michael Biehn as SFC Thoms. Decided to make him something other than a SEAL.
AN 2: Yes, another short chapter. I’m having to build things slowly, so that’s how it goes. Reviews, please.