Faith yawned and stretched out on the seat of the van that was taking her and Xander back to Cheyenne Mountain. It had been a fun three weeks, and it was the first time in a long time she had met people who were in awe of her abilities but not scared of them. It had also been nice to show off a little, though she never quite went all out. The Grand Master had been a kick though, she would love a chance to train with him, he was so fast she could not hit him, and all her power did not good when he turned it against her, it was awesome. Part of her wished she could have stayed; it was nice being wanted for what you could do, rather than being treated as if she was second best. ~oh well… I still get to go see aliens, this is going to be a kick, wonder if boytoy is awake yet~ She leaned over to look at Xander on the seats behind her, he was still breathing evenly, and his eye was closed, so she did not bug him but went back to her musing, still jazzed from the time at the training and evaluation camp.
Xander was not asleep but running through things in his mind as he lay there with his eye closed. ~that was interesting… I am surprised I could shoot like that, but I could just see the target and know ho much to adjust for wind and distance, it just clicked in my head. Very odd, though it was nice to be good, really good at something, and better than a slayer. Just… stunned me... and apparently not all the sea monster stuff disappeared; wish I had known I would have gone swimming more. So I guess we passed maybe? Why don’t I believe it is going to be that easy to convince them to let us be part of the team? All I can do is try; worse case will ask Willow to make us disappear. But damn I want this, I want to belong and not be the Zeppo for once.~ He spoke out loud unconsciously his thoughts so loud, saying the word “Zeppo.”
Faith perked up and leaned over the seat looking at him “Hey Xan, you awake?”
“Yeah... just thinking ‘bout stuff… how you doing?” He replied, not opening his eye, just laying there enjoying the luxury of lying down.
“Oh fine, that was fun, I hope they let me go back someday… was a blast.” A grin present in her voice as she talked. “But I did have a question for you.” Her voice sobered a bit and she watched him carefully.
He waved his hand at her “so ask.” Not really stressing anything, he was glad the time at the camp was over, he was too out of shape for that to have been fun, but still it had been eye opening, and he and Faith were slowly growing closer together. Just being admired for herself had made her blossom and he regretted once again the way she had started with the Scoobie gang.
“Umm… I have heard the term Zeppo a couple times now… what’s mean?” Watching him carefully as she asked the question.
Xander flinched, that really wasn’t what he had been expecting and he opened his eye to look at her, but all he saw was concern and confusion. He sighed “It is what they called me, a zero, the useless one. It was a senior year and everyone treated me as if I was useless and unable to do anything. It still hurts some times.” His eye had closed as he said it, and her voice was as flat as he could make it.
“You??” Faith pulled back shocked “Why would anyone say that? You were always there for everyone… even me and I tossed you away and you still didn’t seem to hate me. Hell I always felt like the worthless one, what with Buff being so Miss Perfect.” She stopped and thought for a moment “Guess… I knew you couldn’t handle the loads of damage like I could... but hell Xan you sure ain’t useless, you see things and think where us Slayers just jump in feet first, and you don’t mind us crying we we fuck up. Never saw you as useless more like… “ A long pause as she struggled for words, then her eyes lit up “You are our support… with out you we’d die and starve and what not. Like the Sarg was saying, your support personnel is your life.” She nodded lots, but was very worried that she still had made it worse not better.
Xander laughed a little, “Yeah.. I know Faith… just never wanted to be support... wanted to be a partner.” A sad wry smile.
A soft sigh “well trust me, I would have you as a partner any day of the week.” Under her breath she added “in more ways than one” The last three weeks had only served to highlight Xanders’ qualities of loyalty, perseverance, honor, and decent body. Faith was really thinking he might be much more fun as a bed partner than just as a friend, but neither of them was ready for that, at least not yet.
Xander having only heard the first part of that smiled “Thanks Faith, maybe it might come true.” He shrugged, then stretched, looking out the window. “Hmm... looks like we are almost there, ready to see if they are playing a welcome home tune or a funeral dirge?”
A tiny bit of hesitation, then she remembered the goodbye from the officer at the camp.
“Faith listen to me. You are good, the best I have seen in a long time, and I haven’t had a chance to train you. You ever want a job look me up. I can use someone like you to help in the war I fight, the one here on this planet. This doesn’t work out call.” It was accompanied by a salute, one that was heartfelt and for the first time ever she had felt as if she was truly first place with someone, not second best.
A quick smile “Yep… cause if they are too stupid to see how good I am they can go fuck themselves, and I am stealing you away to go paint this planet red.” All cocky attitude, but the smile and warmth towards Xander was real.
He snorted a little but smiled back. “Deal… now…” the van pulled up to the gate and the guard approached “I think we are here, lets grab our stuff and go see if the music is to our liking?” He jumped out of the van, then with his duffel on his arm, he offered her his arm.. “Shall we milady?”
Faith tilted her head and arched her brow “But of course milord.” Swinging up her duffel bag on her other arm, she jumped out also and slipped her arm in his.
They walked to the guard shack Xander humming softly “the worms go in, the worms go out, in my stomach and out my mouth.” Faith had to fight down a snicker as she recognized the tune.
“Harris and Faith reporting for General Landry.” Xander said to the gate guard.
“Yes sir, I will tell him you are here.” Replied the guard, who then picked up the phone and spoke into it.
Faith and Xander stood outside enjoying the peace, quiet, and fresh air, both resolutely not thinking about what sort of reception they would receive. The turned when they heard the guard speak to them. “If you would both follow me?”
A shrug and a nod, they turned and followed after the guard, both of them taking one lingering look and deep breath as the elevator doors closed out the last of the sunshine and fresh air. The car went down, deep down into the mountain. Last time they had been shipped out and not allowed to set foot inside, so neither was sure if this was an improvement or not. Faith found herself getting more and more anxious the deeper they went, all her fears started to come bubbling up inside her.
“Faith.” It was Xanders voice at her ear. “It will be okay.” A warm hand slipped into hers squeezing it hard for a long moment then letting go. She smiled and felt the fear slipping away as the doors opened. ~Xander would never abandon anyone, so I am okay~
Standing in front of the door waiting for them, was Lt. Colonel Mitchell. Mitchell actually smiled at them. “Welcome back. Glad to see both of you again.” There was actual welcome in his voice as he gestured them down the corridor.
Xander arched a brow “you seem awfully happy to see us.” He commented a little wryly, usually people were only that happy to see him when he had donuts in his hands.
“You two impressed a lot of people in your three weeks, and that has... um.. adjusted some attitudes down here. Not a marching band welcome I admit, but we definitely want to know more, but for now… yeah we are damn happy to see you.” Grinned Mitchell as they walked down the hall. “For now the schedule is.. more testing.” Laughing softly at the twin groans coming from Faith and Xander. “yeah I know, seems never ending, just be glad we are doing the Cliff notes version for you two, mine took about a month.”
Mitchell stopped at an in the hall and pointed to two doors one marked ‘Harris’ the other marked ‘Faith’. “Here are your racks, one for each of you. You have the rest of the day off, and you are free to wander this level.” A wry shrug of his shoulders, “There is nothing classified around this level, the lounge with the big screen TV and pool table is down the hall, cafeteria serves 24/7, and you have private heads, so… wander, talk, etc… one request.” He looked down for a moment then lowered his voice. “Due to the current betting pool I’d like to ask you, please don’t mention your experiences at the training camp until after your first couple sparring rounds. A few of us are planning on cleaning up.” A wicked grin on his face.
Faith burst out laughing. “Finally something in this bloody place that makes sense, I want a cut of the action.” A wicked grin on her face to match the money sign her hands were making. Xander just snorted and looked amused.
“Just don’t waste your money on me. She is the winning horse.”
Cameron looked at him, tilting his head “Oh I don’t know about that, you might be surprised.” Then nodded at Faith “25% of the take.”
A snort “I don’t think so, 50% after all, we are the ones going to be getting beat up on.” Was Faiths reply, on solid footing with this one.
“40%… the General is keeping 10%.” Mitchell shot back, still grinning. Faith narrowed her eyes but stuck out her hand.
Xander just laughing “okay.. come on oh sneaky one, lets investigate our new homes and then catch up on the news. Umm.. Mitchell do we get email access?”
Cameron nodded “Tomorrow once the rest of your testing is done, information passed on, and paperwork signed, then you will have computers installed in your rooms with internet access.”
“Great, I have some not so patient women in my life I need to talk to. Yes Faith I still love you, but we really don’t want Willow to come looking for me do you?” He replied having seen Faith open her mouth to give him a smart-alec comment. Surprisingly she blushed a bit and that totally froze Xander, so much that he could barely understand what she said next.
Holding up her hands as she was backing up. “True.. Red on a warpath dangerous for the planet.. got it, email good. Going now.” And she quickly disappeared behind the hatch to her room.
Cameron tilted his head looking at Xander “Willow?”
“Yeah um.. the witch.. remember.. the one with the quiet spell.” Xander answered absently turning and heading to his room, still trying to figure out the blush on Faith’s face.
“oh.” Mitchell processed that “yeah, her showing up here looking for you would be VERY bad. Note, email access mandatory.” Nodding he turned and headed down the hall. There was little trouble they could get into, neither had access badges to the elevators, and the only open rooms were the lounge, cafeteria, and gym, and they were free to access that as they wished.
Xander stopped and looked around the room that was his. Having lived in the basement of his parent’s house, and then the nice apartment with Anya, then Buffy’s for the most part, then in a crowded house full of girls, this was way above the basement, and below the apartment, but he wasn’t complaining. It was actually more than he had expected. A double bed, closet, desk, bookcase, foot locker, a wall mounted tv, and a clock radio next to the bed. It was barren, but obviously made so you could put pictures up and rugs and make it much more homey. Xander nodded seeing his other bag of stuff that they had not taken to training with them, sitting on the footlocker.
“Okay.. much better than the prison cell I was kind of expecting.” Looking around again nodding slowly. “wonder if they will let me get an X-box and hook it up?”
He heard a knock on his door and turned as Faith opened it. She had a look of stunned appreciation on her face. “Xander I have my own room, my own bathroom, and someone left me nice shampoo, condition, and lotions. I…” Faith trailed off looking stunned.
Xander was confused for a long moment then he looked at her, really looked. “You have never had a place of your own have you? A place to lock out the world when you need to?”
Silently she shook her head, still overwhelmed by the small gesture of kindness. He moved over to her roughly and pulled her into a hug. “Maybe… we have finally found a home. Maybe?” Hope and fear to hope present in his voice.
“Well, well, am I interrupting something?” Came a saucy and amused voice from the door. Slowly letting go of Faith, Xander turned and there was Vala, leaning nonchalantly against the door frame. “So how are you two lovebirds doing?” with a big smile and wicked humor present in her eyes.
“Love birds? Not quite. More like shipwreck victims holding on to each other for dear life.” Was Xanders wry response as he let go of Faith and focused on Vala. He did not see the swift look of sorrow that crossed Faith’s face. But Vala did.
~hmmm.. so that is the way the wind blows. Well it would give me something fun to do.~ Vala thought as she sauntered into the room. “So you two are here to stay, your other friend, the one with the interesting parting gift going to be coming also?”
Faith and Xander both looked at her confused for a moment, then Xander blushed and Faith started to laugh. “No.. not unless really bad stuff goes down, hope you weren’t too upset by her parting gift.” Said Faith with a wicked grin.
“Me? No… I got at least three interesting offers as I walked back to my quarters, really you would think people on this planet had never seen a naked woman before.” Grinning as she ran her hands sensuously down her body.
Xander firmly kept his eye on her face, refusing to follow her hands. Faith on the other hand let her eyes follow freely, licking her lips in an exaggerated show. “Well you know how men are, they don’t know a good thing when they see it. So what is there to do around here?” Walking over to Vala and mimicking her position against the wall, hand on hip, breasts thrusting outwards.
Vala grinned, slowly wickedly, and Xander had to fight to keep from thinking all the things his body wanted him to think. “Oh I am going to like you, come with me and let me show you all the… private places on this level. Did you like the welcoming gifts I left you?” With a matching wicked grin Faith slipped her arm through Vala’s as they headed out the door.
“Oh please do, I always want to know where you can have.. private time.” Faith drawled as they headed out together. “and yes I did, you never know when you can use lotion to its best effect.”
Xander sat down on the bed, his head in his hands. “Dead.. I am dead…..that or every male on this base is going to hate me in a week for bringing them together.” His voice was almost a whimper.
As soon as the door was closed behind them, Faith and Vala ducked into Faith’s room, where Vala promptly fell onto the bed in a gale of laughter, with Faith leaning against the wall giggling.
Finally they stopped and Faith looked at Vala and smiled. “Thanks, that was a much better welcome than I had ever hoped for.”
Vala shrugged “I know what it is like to be.. um.. not welcomed around here, just be aware I am not a member of SGC, right now more of an unwelcome house guest, but I figured you at least had a sense of humor, Knew I would like you when you called your friend ‘boytoy’. Best line I have heard in a while. So tell me more about you.. what is a Slayer?” Vala bounced on the bed, for all the world looking like a teenager about to get some juicy gossip.
Faith grinned, “Ask me tomorrow after I have signed my life away and I am pretty sure they can’t get rid of me… about then I figure most of the secrets will be spilled, but until then I don’t want to lose what advantages I have.”
Vala nodded serenely. “I know the feeling, why do you think I linked myself to the very cute Dr. Jackson? Not like that was a chore.”
Faith tilted her head, “Who is he? I really only know the General and that cute Colonel Mitchell by site, most everyone else I don’t have any names for.”
“Oh you will soon get to know them more than you want, but for now… let me show you the world you now get to co-rule with me.” Grinning in fun, she lead Faith out on a tour of that level.
Xander worked slowly on putting things way, hoping he was not jumping the gun, when he heard a knock on the door. He looked up and saw Teal’c standing there with small object in his hand. “Xander, I bring you welcome to your new home and gift of warming.”
“Uh.. thanks Teal’c you didn’t have to you know.” With an actual smile for one of the few people here, he thought he might trust.
“Is it not your custom to bring a warm gift for a new residence?” He said handing the object to Xander.
It was a small incense burner, with a supply of incense, Xander took a sniff and it was a mix of sandalwood, cinnamon, and citrus, a nice spicy yet comforting smell. “In a way I guess, thank you for this. Please come in you can sit… um…” looking around the room. “On the bed I guess, note need to buy a chair or two.”
Teal’c nodded gravely “I have found most other personnel do have a spare chair in their room.” He seated himself on the bed, still looking like he was at attention.
Xander nodded, putting the incense burner on the desk, the smell was nice and indeed comforting. “Thanks Teal’c is nice to be welcomed, but not really sure if this is going to be my home yet or not, I have another day of testing.”
“That is true, however from the results of your previous tests I have little doubt that you will succeed.” Teal’c stated, his tone broking no doubt.
Xander looked around sighing “I just hope they will pay us, and maybe I can find out if they will let me hook up and X-box or something.”
“What is an X-box?” Teal’c was confused, he had never heard of that before.
Xander looked at him stunned “You are living in America and you don’t know what an X-box is? Okay that definitely have to be fixed, but…. Later. For now? Could you show me the cafeteria, I am starving.”
“Of course Xander, if you will follow me.” Teal’c rose and lead the way out of the room, giving Xander a tour at the same time. Both of them ignored the challenges facing Xander tomorrow and just talked, Teal’c told him about his friends love of hockey, and Xander made a note to get NHL and Halo games, and see if he could addict Teal’c.
Both Xander and Faith hit the sack early that night, with alarms set for six am, both of them trying very hard not to think about the testing tomorrow, and both of them unable to avoid having it occupy their minds and their dreams.