The rest of that busy day was taken up with showing Faith and Xander around StarGate Command. At 1500 hours SG18 was scheduled to come home, so Mitchell made sure the two Scoobies were in the embarkation room to get the full effect. With the klaxons blazing around them Faith and Xander stood torn between stunned awe and giddy delight. The Earth born members of SGC just watched them amused, remembering their own awe the first few times.
For Xander and Faith that was it, they wanted in so badly they could taste it, and they were ready to beg to be allowed to go. Xander’s geekness took over and it was everything he could do to not babble and ask five million questions. The only thing holding him back was his fear of sounding like Andrew. Luckily everyone seemed to expect that reaction, and told them everything would be answered as much as they wanted.
“Sam will explain it to you, over and over, until you are ready to run screaming from the room in pain, and yet you still won’t understand.” Daniel said sweetly smiling at Major Carter.
Sam shot a drop dead glare at Daniel for that and started to answer, but Teal’c calmly interrupted.
“ColonelCarter has proven to be most knowledgeable about the innermost workings of the gate. I have no doubt that she will explain them to you until you are completely overwhelmed.” Completely ignoring the glare Sam sent his way as well as the muffled snickering from Daniel and Cameron.
Xander and Faith both nodded still trying to comprehend that not only did they get to go to other planets, but they got paid for this. What more could they ask for? By the time they got back to their quarters it was time for dinner, but both of them noticed the nice new computers sitting on their desks, and that brought back to mind all the things that needed to be dealt with. Xander had a grim look on his face as he headed to the cafeteria, making plans for this evening. As they walked into the cafeteria he saw Mitchell and headed over.
“Excuse me Colonel?” Mitchell looked up and flashed a quick smile at Xander, finishing chewing what was in his mouth.
“Harris, so I take it the shock has worn off and you have questions?” Grinning a bit remembering when he first found out and all the questions he had.
“Sort of sir, mainly I wanted to know if there was a telephone I can use, I have some phone calls to make.” Steel lacing through his voice as he thought about the call he needed to make.
Mitchell shrugged, “Yeah, they should have the phone installed, you need to get a phone card to call long distance, the commissary has them, all calls are monitored, yadda yadda. Basically don’t say any of the key words and you are fine.”
Xander frowned at that. “Key words, sir?” He mentally biffed himself. The solider persona was slipping more and more mannerisms in, and half the time he had to fight to not automatically come to attention and respond in a military manner, he supposed soon he would need to spill it all, but was not really sure how to do that.
“Yea.” Mitchell took another quick bite “Basically stuff like stargate, wormhole, planets, galaxy names, Jaffa, Goa’uld. You get the idea, normal stuff and you are fine.” Mitchell took another bite of food as he watched Xander.
Xander nodded in understanding. “Not a problem sir, but I don’t think I have found the commissary yet.” Frowning, trying to place where it might be.
Cameron blinked then thought “Yeah you haven’t, it is two levels up with the armory and supply office, don’t worry we will head up there this week, and once all the paperwork comes through you two will get badges to allow you access to this maze. But here.” Cameron reached into his back pocket, pulled out a wallet and a card. “This should have about $10 left on it, more than enough to make a bunch of calls at the rates they charge around here.” Cameron handed the card to Xander with a smile, waving off any protestation. “Don’t worry about it, I plan on making up the money very soon.” Grinning as he referred obliquely to the upcoming sparring match.
Xander rolled his eye, but nodded “Thank you sir, I will talk to you later.” He turned sharply and walked to the food line, mind focused on calls and emails, not noticing his body responding to the military cues around him.
Mitchell frowned a bit watching Xander leave ~damn, sometimes that boy responds as if he has been in the military all his life, that was a non-com turn and response if I have ever seen one.~ He filed that away as another tidbit of information about the mystery of who Xander was.
Xander sat down and ate mechanically, Faith was lost in thoughts also, so neither of them were particularly affected by the others silence. Faith was still blown away by the Stargate and was still thinking about her name, and what she wanted it to be.
Xander finished eating, and looked at Faith. “I have emails and what not to write, and I don’t know about you but I am exhausted after all the stuff today, see you in the morning?”
Faith focused on Xander and a real smile crossed her face briefly “Damn straight boytoy, first thing in the morning and you know it.”
He could not help but grin back; grabbing his tray he dropped it off and headed to his quarters.
He stood and looked at the nice new computer with a LCD screen monitor sitting there, the phone on the wall, with a credit card strip built into it. He frowned, but then realized it simplified tracking and maintaining security to do it this way, no need to worry about visitors using the phones. He looked at the phone card in his hand and saw it was a special type that he figured would only work on these phones. Strangely all this made Xander feel much better. ~they are serious about security, but they take care of their people. Hell I might have wanted to work here even without the added benefit of getting to travel to other worlds.~ He could not help the grin that crossed his face and he hummed a few bars of the Star Trek theme, before focusing on the phone. Out loud talking to himself about what he needed to do. “Giles first. Travers I wish I could kill again, and I don’t know where Wussley is.” Anger and regret colored his tone greatly. Shutting his door and locking it, he picked up the handset, swiped the card, and dialed a number.
“Hello!!! House of Slayers, Insanity and Chaos, how may I assist you?” Came a young familiar voice over the phone and Xander was instantly chuckling.
“I would like two slayers, a key, and a witch to go please?”
“XANDER!!!!!!!!!!!!” Came Dawn’s excited sonic scream that had Xander ripping the phone away from his ear, wincing in pain. “Howareyouwhat’sgoingoneverythingokay?”
Came the babble that was more than worthy of Willow on a good day and Xander laughed.
“Hi Dawnster, I’m fine, everything is good, and I called to say I wuvs all the little Scoobies.” Teasing her. He heard the depth breath being released and realized how worried she had been. “Really, this place is great and maybe someday I can show you, but everything is very cool here.”
“Good… I missed you.. and so have the others, though they might never admit it.” Dawn’s happy reply floated down the line. “I am so glad you called. Willow said she saw you, and that you were fine, just dealing with it, so spill.”
Xander spent 10 minutes talking to Dawn, just generalities about how nice the people were, what their camping trip had been like, nothing specific and he definitely did not mention Faith kissing him.
Finally Dawn relinquished him to Buffy. “Xander.. how are you? You are okay right?”
A half grin pulled up the corners of his mouth. “Yeah I am fine; this is not the Initiative, just a group of hard working people trying to do a dangerous job. I like this place, it feels good.”
“Good… I know my behavior of late sucked, but remember your home is here with us, no matter what, us Scoobies are family.” Buffy’s voice, full of assurance and friendship vibrated over the line and warmed his heart.
“I know Buff, even real families have fights.. I know I always have a home there.” They spent a few minutes talking about her classes and how the up and coming bunch of girls were doing, when they were winding down, he asked. “Buffy, can you take the phone to Giles; I need to talk to him privately about some personal stuff.”
He could all but see the frown on her forehead, and confused look on the phone, but all she said was “Sure, he’s hiding in his room I think; let me go give it to him.” Talking idly as she climbed the stairs, phone in hand, until she reached his door. “Giles…. Xander’s on the phone for you.”
Xander heard the door open and Giles British accent coming through “For me? Thank you Buffy.”
“No prob… “ Xander heard footsteps heading back down the stairs, and Giles voice came on the line.
“Hello Xander, how are you doing?”
“It goes Giles, but I have something I need to talk to you about, can you make sure there aren’t any ears around to overhear this?” Xanders voice was flat, as he fought to not let any inflection in at all.
Giles looked at the phone for a moment, then shrugged a bit “I can cast a small privacy spell, is it that important?”
“Yes.” Giles set the phone down, and cast the simple ward, he had been practicing his basics also. “We can’t be overheard now, what is going on Xander?” Giles was a bit worried Xander was not normally this brusque.
“Giles, how old is Faith?” Xander’s voice over the phone line, was hard and flat.
Frowning Giles responded “Around 24 I figure. She should be about the age of you and Buffy. Why? If you want her birthday you would be best served asking her yourself.”
A soft snort from Xander. “Not quite. Giles, Faith is 22.”
Something about that struck Giles as odd, but he couldn’t process what was so off about it. “Really.. well then why did you ask me if you already knew the answer to that question?”
Anger, frustration, and his own self loathing sprang up in Xander’s voice, unable to control it as he responded. “I simply wanted to ascertain if you were as dense as we all were at that time, and apparently you were just as stupidly blind.”
“What?? Xander what in the world are you talking about?” Something was niggling at the back of Giles mind, but as he was focused on Xander and confused at this outpouring of anger, the thought did not coalesce.
“What I am talking about is that if you do the math and Faith is 22 now, that means when she showed up in Sunnydale, alone, watcher dead, staying in a fleabag motel that I wouldn’t have let Spike stay in, she was 15 FUCKING YEARS OLD!” Xander all but yelled that last part, hand clenching the phone so tight he heard it creak.
Giles froze, his mind flashing back, to the young woman, so self assured, he never even asked her ages. ~slayers are chosen around 13-15, why would I think she was 18, she had only been called a few months ago, she could not have been 18, she would have barely been a sophomore in high school, oh dear lord what did I do.~
As if he could hear what Giles was thinking in the deafening silence on the other end Xander snarled on. “Exactly, we left a 15 year old in hell, expecting to fend for herself when Buffy who HAD a mother was coddled every step of the way. I already hate myself for what I did to her, but how the hell could you and the COUNCIL allow something like that to happen?!?!” Xander was fighting with all his might not to scream into the telephone, wanting Giles to hurt for Faith as badly as he did. “I think the vampires treated her better than we did. They at least treated her with respect even if they were trying to kill her. Hell we gave Kendra a much warmer welcome when she showed up, gave her a place to live, but we didn’t bother to even try to see past the front Faith gave us, no it was too bloody easy to fucking believe it and just ignore her.”
Giles was ashen white, listening to Xander rail at him, it was nothing less than what he deserved, he was suppose to be a Watcher and he failed to give a Slayer even the most basic support, a place to live and protection so she did not have to focus on that. “My god… what did we do…” pain self hatred and absolute grief radiating through his words.
Xander snarled, needing to punish Giles since he could not punish himself, but fortunately he realized that soon enough to prevent himself from burning bridges. He thought back to who was there then. Buffy and Angel, Oz and Willow, his own mistakes, all the stupid things they had done, and no matter how much he wanted to hurt himself and others, the honest truth was that they were human and as such they often screwed up royally trying to do the right thing. He sat down on the bed, anger slowly ebbing out of him, none of them had purposely hurt Faith, they had done it with out ever having thought about her at all, and right now that hurt the most, because all to often he had been the one they ignored. He heard Giles shaky breathing on the other end.
“Does she hate us, for what we did? I never really understood why she was so distant… now I do. Not that I ever made the effort to understand.” Giles voice was shocked and shaky on the other end of the line, fading to bitter guilt at the end.
Taking a deep breath Xander replied “No… and that might be the worst part, I think she thought she deserved no better… and we lived up to that expectation. Giles, she worries so much about us forgiving her, her mistakes, that she never looks at how we failed her. I can try to make it up to her, just.. Giles PROMISE ME.” In a voice that was sheer demand and power. “Promise me to never abandon any Slayer like that again.”
“I promise, in fact I am going to get with Buffy, beat on her a little and see about getting some standards set in place for age and education requirements. Dear Lord, a sophomore... how could we have not seen?” Giles asked, still horrified by what they had done.
“We didn’t want to see, and all of us need to take the blame for that.” Xanders voice was quiet and sad, as he stared at the blank wall. “So all we can do now is try to repair the damage done. I will work on it from this end, you work on it from yours. And Giles?” Xander hesitated.
“Yes Xander?” The British voice was smooth yet still carried the shock of what they had done.
“Sorry for yelling, I just found out today, and it hurts to know we treated anyone like I was tr ... like that.” Xander said softly, he did not give Giles a chance to reply or say anything else. “I’ll talk to you later, get my email addy from Willow. Bye Giles.” Xander hung up the phone quickly before Giles could reply, and he laid down on the bed, eye closed and thought.
~Faith I assumed you were older and wiser, and never looked past the façade you put up to see you, I promise I will always look to see the truth, no matter how much it hurts.~ He lay there for a long time before he fell asleep, mind tormenting him with images of all the mistakes he had made by not looking for the truth.
The next morning their new life started, early for Faith, normal time for Xander at 0630. First they had to finish their paper work, and Faith after much thinking over the last day or so, had finally decided on a name. She turned in all her paperwork to Landry and there on the W-2 was the name Faith Lydia Revere. Landry looked at the name for a moment then up at her. “A good strong name, it suits you.” Was his only comment on the matter.
Much to their surprise they were both given schedules of what the next month or so would be like, training in teamwork, tactics, and fighting in the morning, and both of them divvyed up to various people in the afternoon, with Faith having a 3 hour section five days a week for studying for her GED. The schedule was to begin on Monday, and this was Thursday, but first they had yet MORE medical tests, these were all base line tests Dr. Lam explained, so when they came back from off world their results would be compared to them to make sure everything was okay. Xanders weird double EEG made an appearance again, but Xander volunteered nothing, so it was just entered into his files. They got a tour of the base to find out where everything was and to have ID cards and badges ordered, pending clearance. That took up most of the morning, and before they knew it lunch was being served.
Sitting and eating, they were both still jazzed from all the new stuff they had seen and been told. They were making plans for tomorrow, as they both had new checks in their names and needed to open bank accounts and buy some material comforts and stuff. But the rest of the day was going to be taken up with sparring, and while watching Mitchell Faith was amused to see him fighting to keep from looking too smug.
No one was to surprised by the sparring match, while the SEAL files had been helpful, they really did not let you know how either of them would react in different situations or how they would work with Teal’c. But it was generating a lot of interest and they saw more and more people heading towards the gym as they walked there with Mitchell.
“So you two ready to strut your stuff?” asked Cameron after a quick stop off at their quarters, gym bags in hand. Cameron was watching all the people around him, and you could almost see him writing ‘sucker’ above their heads on more than half.
“Hey Faith has stuff to strut, me I run away really well.” Responded Xander, still part of him wondered if the training had been a fluke, normally he did not do that well. ~yeah and normally you fight against hell beasts or slayers, your point is?~ His inner solider responded to his musings with that acid comment.
“Yeah sure… Whatever, keep it up modest boy, I might not expect you to win against Teal’c I am betting based on time before he kicks your ass.” Sniped Mitchell back, grinning at the two of them.
“Cool” chimed in Faith “Can I put a bet down for 5 minutes?” Digging in her pockets, and finally coming up with a 5 dollar bill, “This is all I got, so Xander for a minimum of 5 minutes.”
Xander looked at her skeptically, “You really think I will last that long?”
Faith snorted “You forget boytoy, I saw you, personally I think closer to 10, but Teal’c is big, and from the way they talk ‘bout him here, I am figuring he is pretty damn good.”
Xander shrugged “What ever, I have 10 bucks on you, that says you clean the floor with him, in under 2 minutes. Umm… can I get that to you AFTER we cash our checks; I am on the far end of broke.”
Mitchell nodded “Sure, won’t sponsor most people, but I know why you two are broke, and not like you have had much time to hit the ATM so, no problem.” Pulling out a small notebook and making notations in it. “K, you are down for 10 on Faith TKO in under 2.”
Faith and Xander grinned and headed to the gym. Faith was hyped and waiting for some fun, Xander was just nervous, but hell, at least this was just practice and not to the death or anything.
They walked into the gym and froze. It looked like the majority of personnel on the base where there, leaning against the walls, standing in corners, all idly chatting, but watching and waiting.
Xander swallowed “Okay I have to pee now.” He whispered, trying to not think about getting his ass totally creamed with all these people watching.
Cameron choked a bit, trying to hide a smile. “Come on... locker rooms are this way, you can change there.”
Xander nodded dumbly and headed that way while Faith just shrugged and trotted off to the women’s side, not a care in the world. Xander slipped in and stood there for a long moment then took a deep breath. ~okay I can do this, I have had slayers, demons, girlfriends, and hell goddesses beat the hell out of me, so I think I can handle one buffed up alien dude giving me a beat down, at least he doesn’t have tits.~ With a wry snort of humor, Xander changed into an old t-shirt and shorts and headed back into the gym. On the other side he saw Faith come out in a Star Trek shirt over a sports bra and shorts. ~damn, she is looking good… hey that’s my shirt!! How the hell? I was wondering where it was…I may never wash it again if I get it back… hey guys keep your eyes off my slayer!!~ He thought, noticing the many admiring looks Faith was getting as she dropped down and started stretching. Xander refused to think about how he meant the word ‘my’ in his head. He noticed Vala in the corner watching him and Faith with her trade mark smirk then she flashed a grin at him, and suddenly Xander felt better. ~hmm.. oh well another beautiful woman to watch me get my ass handed to me. Make that two more beautiful women~ as Sam walked in with Daniel, watching with an amused air of humor at the people gathered to watch the sparring match.
A deep breath as he walked forward to where Teal’c was standing with two staffs in his hand, a calm look on his face. “Are you ready Xander?”
Xander nodded, and fumbled a little catching the staff Teal’c tossed to him. Mitchell walked out, speaking loud enough for everyone in the gym to hear him. “This is a sparring match, first person to get their opponent with a TKO – technical knock out for you newbies - of laying on the mat for 5 seconds wins.” Teal’c and Xander both nodded.
They squared off, nodding to each other once, then focusing on the opponent, shutting out the rest of the room. Nervous Xander stood waiting and watching, trying to just think about Teal’c and how he would move, when the attack came, he saw it being telegraphed a mile away, bringing up the staff to block, whipping the opposite end to attack. Back and forth, attack, block, parry, attack. Smooth fast motions, neither noticing anything except their opponent, time, noise everything meaningless. Teal’c focused on Xanders’ blind side, knowing it was a weakness that he could exploit, and moved to keep himself in that spot. Xander realized what was going on and stepped up the speed of the attacks, taking the small hits, sacrificing to get better shots.
“Shit he’s good.” Daniel muttered as he watched them fight. “I have sparred with Teal’c before and normally he has me on the ground in four or five moves.”
Sam nodded watching the action, “He is sloppy but he blocks well and takes advantage of what is there.” She was surprised at how well me moved and compensated for that blind spot.
Time flowed by and they still moved, being more evenly matched than many had expected, until Xander raised his staff across his head to block and overhand attack from Teal’c, the force of the blow caused the staff to slip out of one hand. The surprise as he fumbled to get the staff back up in a block position, was enough for Teal’c to sweep his legs out from under him, causing Xander to land heavily on his back, with the staff at his throat.
“I believe I have won Xander.” Came Teal’c’s calm unruffled voice, barely breathing hard from the workout.
Xander blinks the sweat out of his eye looking at Teal’c still a bit disoriented from having the wind knocked out of him. ”And this is a surprise how?” He asks wryly, slowly sitting up and accepting Teal’cs’ proffered hand to help pull him up. He is surprised by the burst of applause that breaks out as he stands up, and let out an 'oof', as Faith ran to him, grabbing him in a tight hug.
“Alright Xanman, you did it, earned me a nice chunk of change.” Faith laughed as she hugged him. “It took him 7 minutes to get you down, most people had you for under 2, and I had you for over 5.” She grinned kissed him on the cheek bouncing a little.
Xander looked around at the grinning and impressed faces “So I did okay?”
Mitchell blinked “Okay? Hell, I can barely last for 5 minutes against Teal’c and that is on a good day, you did great Xander.” Smiling at him in genuine humor.
Xander relaxed and saw people talking and money exchanging hands. “Hmm… well good then... so you’re up next Faith.” She was still standing right near him, so he leaned over and whispered in her ear. “See if you can do enough to end it quickly, but not full speed, I want to keep some aces just to our team.” Xander asked, jerking his head a little towards Mitchell and Teal’c.
Faith froze for a moment then nodded “Good plan Xan.” She grinned at him and picked up an extra staff, and bounced to the middle of the floor, energy all but leaking off of her as she glowed in anticipation of a fun match.
Teal’c joined her on the floor holding his staff in his hand as the others moved back to the walls of the room. Mitchell spoke out “Same rules as last time guys, remember sparring, no trying to kill.” Grinning and counting his money in his head.
Authors Note: Sorry this took a while to get out, thanks for your patience. Please note if you see an error let me know where it is so I can fix it.