Kicking Ass & Taking Names
The Rewritten Chronicles
*Training: Kicking Ass & Taking Names in 12 easy steps
“Right now, I want to talk about your fighting skills, or lack thereof.”
Xander was indignant. “Hey! I do okay, buddy! I can hold my own!”
Ghost-Xander just leveled a flat stare at him and crossed his arms across his chest.
Xander began to squirm and fidget under his relentless gaze. “Okay, so I don’t have Slayer strength or reflexes, but that’s different and you know it!”
“Xander, there is far more to fighting than just strength and speed.” He uncrossed his arms and waved off the objections that Xander was ready to spout out. “It helps, I know. But it’s not the be all end all of a fighter. You can increase your physical strength by hitting the weight room at the gym and up your reaction times by sparring. You’ll never reach Buffy’s level, but that’s because she’s empowered.
“I know I’ll never be as good as Buffy, but that doesn’t mean that I’m bad at fighting just cause I can’t take her down.”
“I know that and I’m glad that you do too. Comparing yourself to Buffy is an exercise in futility as well as depressing.” Ghost-Xander waved a hand vaguely through the air.
“I meant compared to other non-empowered humans. Right now, your fighting skills amount to tackling a vamp and then hoping to get your stake up in time to dust it before it bites you. Watching Buffy spar with Giles or standing there in a padded suit while she whomps on you isn’t learning to fight. Buffy can go toe to toe with vamps and more than match them in strength and speed. You can’t. So, you need to learn totally different techniques. Ones that allow you to fight things stronger and faster. Don’t block a hit when you can deflect it or dodge it. Use a vamps’ momentum against them. They may be stronger, but they weigh the same as a human. They can be pushed and thrown if you get the right leverage.”
His future self paced for a moment and then sat down near him and sighed. Finally, he turned to face Xander and made a vague gesture.
“Just think of this. A vamp on patrol runs at you to tackle you or grab you. Instead of crashing to the ground with it latching on and hoping that Buffy gets there in time, you use its own momentum to drag it up and flip it over your back.”
Ghost-Xander pantomimed flipping someone over his back.
“It ends up being the one crashing to the ground only to find itself on the receiving end of Giles’ or Willow’s crossbow bolt or a blast of holy water.”
Xander blinked as multiple memories of him smacking painfully into the ground with a vamp on top of him ran through his head. Not only was he terrified at the time thinking he was about to die, it also left him bruised up and down his spine and super sore the next day. The idea of tossing the vamp through the air instead of getting squashed appealed to him greatly.
“Okay. I gotta admit that sending the evil undead flying into random tombstones sounds appealing. And once again, I’m not Slayer strong, so…”
Ghost-Xander sighed. “Super strength doesn’t have anything to do with that skill. Like I said, vamps weigh the same as a human. You are strong enough to flip a human; therefore vampire flapjacks are in your future if you can learn the technique.” Ghost-Xander grinned. “In fact, if she just got into shape a bit, Willow is strong enough to flip a vamp.”
“Actually,” his future self seemed to look off in the distance as he considered something, “that might not be a bad idea for all of you.”
“What?” Xander blinked at the random thought-bubble. He knew that he tended to think in circles instead of straight lines, but his older self seemed much more able in the whole logic department.
“Getting in shape. You, Giles and Willow could really do with having a set workout routine. Toned and pumped muscles for strength, but also having a much greater stamina will help tremendously. How often have Willow and Giles fallen behind when you’ve all had to run? They are slow and arrive out of breath and exhausted. That automatically puts them at an even worse disadvantage if there is a fight.”
He shrugged and waved away Xander’s automatic answer. Which made sense since he already knew it. It was sorta creepy though if he thought about it too closely.
“A daily run or jog plus sparring workouts a couple of times a week will build up stamina and help tone muscles. This will help Giles refresh his own skills, since sparing with Buffy doesn’t really test him since she just beats on him until he has to stop from the pain. Teaching you and Willow the basics will also benefit him.”
“Makes sense. So, workout and daily runs. Check.” Xander frowned. “Don’t think Willow will go for it though.”
Ghost-Xander chuckled and that tickled real Xander’s brain in a way that raised goosebumps again. Only these didn’t bring along a cramped stomach, so that was of the good.
“Willow will be hard to convince to start. She is a very sit down and study type person as apposed to a get up and do person. It’ll be even harder to get her to stay with it. She’ll be sore at first and her lack of physical strength will put her squarely behind you and Giles. That will not sit well with her at all. Willow has always had learning new stuff come super easy to her so having to work at something is just gonna upset her. Her lack of self-confidence will insist she quit.” Ghost-Xander speared him with a serious look, “That will change if she sticks with it though. She’ll eventually see her own progress and in the long run it will act to boost her flagging self image. It’ll also give her a much needed taste of what it’s like to be you.”
Xander frowned hard at that and quirked his head to the side. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Willow, for all that she adores you, doesn’t know what it’s like to fail at something or to have to work hard for something. She drags you along with her into all the advanced classes just so that she doesn’t end up in them alone and then gets frustrated and confused when you fall behind and don’t understand the material. She can’t comprehend that it’s just ten times harder for you to learn it then her.”
“When it comes down to training and fighting, you will be the one to pick it up faster and easier. That’s a reversal of everything she knows. Initially, she’ll want to stop trying since she’ll feel like a failure, but if she keeps with it she’ll eventually get it.”
Ghost-Xander smirked. “When she falters, just use math and science class as an example.”
“So, we’ve got to get in shape and learn to fight. Check and check. Learn to use traditional weapons and try to develop new ones. Check and also check. And last, but not least, planning out defenses of the Library. Check.”
“Well,” Ghost-Xander got his thinking look again, which was still sorta wiggy since he was kinda see-through. “Not just the Library. Any public place where humans gather at night is also a target for vamps. They gotta hunt somewhere and graveyards just don’t have enough living people in them at night to feed them all. The Bronze, the bowling alleys and bars, the movie theatre and the Mall are all places that will attract a hungry vamp. All they gotta do is seduce or grab a human and get them someplace alone and you get an instant dead human.”
Xander blinked in astonishment for a long moment and then cringed in chagrin. “We never even thought of that. We just patrol the graveyards and the industrial section of town.”
Ghost-Xander nodded in understanding. “Yeah, I get that. Those are the places where vamps and demons make their homes, but they don’t stay there constantly. They have hunting grounds all over the town and go there at night. The graveyards and factories are where they hide during the daytime. In fact, daytime raids to various crypts and factories with huge amounts of holy water, sunlight and fire would probably put a big dent in the vamp population. But nighttime patrolling, unless you are certain of a vamp rising, should be done where humans gather.”
“Okay, that I can just picture. Most of those places have blacked out windows. Knock them out so the light goes into the building. Barricade all the doors but one. Then stand in the entrance and hose the place down with holy water from those super-soakers you adore while someone fires arrows into the screaming crowd of singed vamps. Dust as many as possible at once. If enough die, Buffy can charge in to mop up survivors, if not, just escape into the sunlight and regroup.”
Xander thought about it for a long moment, a goofy grin stretched over his face, “Oh, and also, like you suggested doing to the Library, we could go around town and etch little mini crosses into the doorknobs of different places. Might keep a few vamps from going inside the bars and such.”
Ghost-Xander grinned back. “Now you’re thinking right. There are lots of things that can be done. Not all of it will kill or stop the vamps, but it’ll make ‘em uncomfortable and inconvenienced. It’s also a physiological advantage if they are all turned around and afraid of what might pop up next.”
Excited, Xander began to bounce in place where he sat on the bench. “Oh, oh! We should probably recruit a priest or something. Someone who can bless our weapons, crosses and water supply. Perform random exorcisms. Things like that.”
His future self smirked. “Not a bad idea. An excellent one, in fact.”
“Thanks.” Xander smirked back.
“So, let’s summarize. Knowledge and innovation, fighting and weapons skills, tactics and pre-planning for emergencies and contingencies, getting in shape physically and working on issues of flagging self-confidence and poor self-image, gathering allies and forming into teams with specific goals to accomplish. All you need is the ambition and willingness to work hard to have all of those things.”
Ghost-Xander resumed his pacing. “It sounds easy, I know. Any fool in the world can throw around words and sound good. Actually putting those words into action is another thing entirely. I’m basically dumping a lot of information and advice in your lap all at once. I don’t have the time to hang around and help you get from point A to point B. I wish I could, but that’s not gonna happen. So all of this is gonna be on you and that’s a lot. It’s not something that you can rush out and have it finished in a week. This, all of this, is an ongoing process that’ll never really end. The details might change a bit as time goes on, but the more you do it the easier it will get in some ways.”
A sigh and then a wry grin.
“Your first big hurdle, as I said, will be getting Willow and Giles on board. Present a united front to Buffy when she comes back from LA and help her heal from her trauma. The rest will slowly come together as you gather each piece one at a time. Then just keep at it. Keep training. Keep researching, both the traditional knowledge and new ways of fighting. Keep gathering allies. Keep on track and don’t loose focus.”
Xander snorted. “Sure. Fine. It’s just a hell of a lot to focus on all at once.”
“That’s what your lists are for. Remember those? Don’t just write them out and forget them. Check back often. Cross out the goals you reach or discard them as no good or irrelevant if they no longer matter. Add new items as needed.” A shrug, “Get one of those 5 subject spiral notebooks. Label each section for whatever works for you. Training, life and education goals, patrol notes, whatever. Then use it regularly to help you keep on track with the various things going on.”
Real-Xander nodded, sighed deeply and then face palmed. Great. Now he’s got me doing it.
“My organizational skills aren’t so good. I mean, as long as I can remember I’ve never had to keep track of anything. That’s what Willow was for. All I ever had to do was just call her up and ask.” Xander shrugged sheepishly and blushed. “She was always willing to tell me everything I had forgotten.”
His future self just smirked slightly and then reached up to scratch his chin.
“I know, but that’s gotta stop. You have to learn how to keep yourself organized. Willow can’t do it forever and it’s not fair to expect her to. Plus, there’s gonna be things that you won’t want to discuss with her for whatever reason and you’ll have to keep track of it.”
“Writing down and then continually updating lists of things works for me. It’s a simple method and helps me organize and categorize things.” A bland shrug. “You might find a different method that works better or is more efficient. Who knows?”
Ghost-Xander frowned and looked a touch sad. “Plus, and I know you hate to hear it, but…It’s possible that if you rely on Willow to keep track of your stuff that she will purposely edit the list or leave things out that she doesn’t like or add stuff that she thinks you need to do. She wouldn’t do it to hurt you or for any malicious reason, it’s just…she has her own agenda and her own vision of who you should be.”
Xander scowled at his future self. He had to bite his tongue to keep from leaping to Willow’s defense and it was only that he’d said she wasn’t trying to hurt him that stopped things from turning ugly.
“Don’t forget, Willow has issues compounded by the Hellmouth. What’s more is she tends to see the mask-Xander and not the real you.” A deep sigh. “It’s all so complex and yet so stupid. Willow is so smart that she sometimes forgets that knowledge isn’t everything and that life isn’t lived between the pages of a book. Knowledge and wisdom are two different things and wisdom only comes from experience. Willow has an abundance of the former and almost none of the later.”
A wry grin slid across ghost-Xander’s face.
“That will change over time and she will grow into one of the most knowledgeable and wise person’s we know. For now though, Willow is still a young teenage girl trying to navigate a world that often baffles and frightens her.”
Xander didn’t quite know what to think of that. He’d spent the vast majority of his life thinking that Willow was the one to go to for answers. She always seemed to know everything. The idea that she didn’t know all that much or that she didn’t know what to do with the knowledge she did have was contrary to his whole view-point of the world.
And yet, who would take the advice of a teenage girl over a professional and seasoned adult? Only another teenager, that’s who.
He also didn’t like the idea that Willow would manipulate his life so directly, even if she meant well. Then again, looking back he could see how easy it would be for her. A little nudge there, a simple change here. He would never have noticed it and if she thought it was for the best? Who knows what she’d be capable of? It was already pointed out to him that he didn’t know her nearly as well as he thought he did. Was this another layer in the onion-Willow that he needed to peel back?
He couldn’t think about that right now. There was too much to think about, too much to process. Willow deliberately not reminding him that he’d made plans simply because she secretly didn’t approve was just not something he was up to dealing with.
Xander sighed and tipped his head back to stare up at the clouds. It was almost surprising to see a bright and sunny sky. He felt like it should be overcast with a threat of rain. That way the world would match his mood.
“Anything else I should know?”
The tone was slightly apologetic and he didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t want to know. He just wished he could unknow what he’d heard so far.
“Just a little stupid thing that you probably won’t like, but…” Ghost-Xander rolled his one eye in resignation. “Change your eating habits.”
Xander’s head snapped up and around to stare google-eyed at his doppelganger. “Huh?” He blinked in confusion. “And again with, huh?”
Ghost-Xander gave him a ‘duh’ look and he tried not to fidget.
“You want to be a good fighter; strong, fast, with great endurance and killer moves. Right?”
Xander looked at him like he’d hit his head too hard. “Didn’t we just cover that? Or am I just hallucinating vividly?”
His future self had a flicker of mild annoyance wash over his face before it settled into a bland neutral look once again.
“If you want to be a good fighter then you have to fuel your body with better food. Twinkies, pizza and ice-cream should be snacks for special occasions, not the mainstay of your diet.”
Xander almost felt as if he were listening to blasphemy. It was a weird combination of horror, shock and mild superstitious fear.
Ghost-Xander shook his head.
“Those things don’t build muscle, they build up fat. If you’re gonna put on extra weight, make sure it’s muscle and not a spare tire around the middle. Forego soda and drink milk instead. Soda rots your teeth and corrodes your stomach lining. Milk on the other hand, will strengthen bones and help build muscle. Eat more veggies and fruits. They will fuel your body for longer than snack-cakes and will have less calories.”
“I hate to say it, but eating a well balanced diet will help you get in shape faster and will make you healthier. Immortal healing will take care of injuries and illness, but it won’t make you thin or strong. You will still have to eat good and workout regularly for that.”
Xander made a face. “Ugh…an eternity of broccoli.”
Ghost-Xander smirked for a moment and then frowned.
“It took me a while to figure that all out. After I left home I had a girlfriend that did most of the cooking and it was good for a while. Then, well, things went wrong and we split up.” Pain, regret and sorrow washed over his blue face in swift succession.
“At that point I was pretty much left to feed myself. I ended up living on booze, beer, pizza, twinkies and Chinese food. I was also spending a good part of my workday behind a desk as foreman and I was being relegated to the background slay-wise. All that combined meant that I ended up packing on a lot of extra weight in the form of a flabby gut and spare tire around my waist and hips.”
He grimaced in distaste and found his future self echoing it.
“The result of that was that I wasn’t as fast and I couldn’t dodge nearly as well. I got caught and couldn’t get away.” Ghost-Xander unconsciously reached up and ran glowing blue fingertips over his eye-patch, a haunting look of remembered pain etched into his face.
And, oh! Wasn’t that just a horrific way to learn the lesson of something so simple and basic as good nutrition. Xander shivered in horror under the warm sun.
“It took a long time and a lot of work to get back into fighting trim. The damage had been done by then though.”
Ghost-Xander seemed to shake himself out of his funk and he focused back on real-Xander and smiled.
“Still, you’re not in that bad of shape now. Most of that has been from running around a lot this past year, but there’s always room for improvement. Plus, it’s best to get into good habits now instead of having to break bad ones later.”
Looking up into the single eye of his future self, Xander made a vow to himself that he was going to cut back on the junk food, try to eat more healthy stuff and work hard at learning how to fight. The cold hard evidence of slackerdom was just too dangerous to ignore.