Disclaimer: Well, I own, nothing, except the plot. All
characters are the properties of their respective owners, who are
not me...I make no profit..
Xander hit the mat hard enough to drive all the air out of his lungs, stunned, he lay on his back gasping. Getting his breath back he looked upward into the frowning countenance of Lara.
"You fight vampires?"
"Yeah, seven years now. Multiple bruises and scrapes to show for it, but only one broken bone."
"Hey! You don't have to sound so surprised."
She stared down at him seriously for a moment then crouched down next to him. "Xander, to be brutally honest, your fighting skills are terrible. So, yes, I am surprised." She looked at him contemplatively for a moment, and then continued, "So, we'll just have to remedy that, won't we?"
He groaned. "More bruises?"
She grinned at him. "Probably, but not today." Taking hold of his hand, she stood, pulling him to his feet. "Go on. As I remember, you wanted to "check out" Bryce's entertainment system."
"Thanks for the reprieve."
Lara dropped the workout clothes into the laundry hamper and crossed the room to the shower as she pondered the latest revelations about her new house guest.
Xander's lack of fighting skills made no sense. He had been living, virtually in a combat zone, every night for the last seven years and no one had ever given him lessons in any form of hand-to-hand combat. She would have thought it was the obvious thing to do. Buffy, this so-called Slayer, or Giles, should have taken it upon themselves to give Xander the tools to survive on the Hellmouth.
Certainly Xander, who had made his own choice to fight, should have taken some action to learn, but his friends who had the skills should have helped him.
Could they be so self-centered that they didn't see the danger Xander's lack of skill put him in?
According to Xander they had at times tried to push him away from the fighting and out of "danger". She found it difficult to believe that anyone who was friends with him could miss-judge his character so severely. All their pushing him away had done was to isolate him and put him in more danger. It was bloody amazing that he hadn't been maimed or killed.
Lara was a little surprised at how angry she was. Somehow he had already gotten under her skin. She liked him; there was a good-natured, irrepressible sense of life about him.
She would be damned if he was going back into that hellhole without as much preparation as she could give him.
Finishing up in the shower she dried off while considering the problem. Slipping on another set of clothes she moved to the study.
An idea occurred to her and a smile crept onto her face. Yes, that would do nicely. Reaching for the phone on the desk she took a moment to recall the number and then dial.
Hello. Akahito? This is Lara. I'm quite well thank you, and how are you? And your family? I'm glad Sachi is doing so well. I have a bit of a problem at the moment, and I believe you are better suited to assist than me. You see...
Minutes later Lara hung up the phone. On problem attended to. Now, what else can we work with? She settled back into the chair contemplating what the best method of preparing Xander would be.
Once you got past the whole geeky factor, Bryce was pretty cool. Not that Xander was one to talk about geeks. His best friend was one after all, and he had been "in" with that crowd for as long as he could remember. Bryce was a good guy, he just didn't relate well to people.
Hillary was a combination of the quintessential English butler and something else Xander had yet to quantify. The man always showed up where you needed him, with what you needed. After the fifth time he popped up before Xander could even ask for something, Xander determined he was either psychic or he had the whole mansion under surveillance.
It was getting toward evening, the sun lowering in the sky, casting long shadows over the woods and meadows around the Mansion as Xander walked slowly along one of the trails through the wood. He could see the building though the trees every now and then as they thinned out here and there. The only sounds were the rustle of the wind in the leaves, the low buzz of insects, and the occasional call of a lone bird.
It was different in Sunnydale. The woods weren't really all that different, but the underlying aura of darkness and fear that could be felt in the forest about Sunnydale was absent here. It made taking a walk a whole different experience.
Certainly removes the whole fear-of-horrific-death-after-darkness- falls thing, he thought.
He was feeling rather contemplative. After the statement by Ranaldis, yesterday, that it would possibly be months before he could go home he had fallen into something of a funk. Lara had let him brood yesterday but this morning seemed to have taken it upon herself to pull him out of it. Her method had been quite direct, and he had the bruises for evidence. They hadn't spent long on the practice mat, just enough time for Lara to gauge his fighting ability. She hadn't been impressed.
Stopping on a slight rise where a beak in the trees allowed him a view of the mansion, he gave a bitter chuckle.
What was there for her to be impressed by, really? Usually when he staked a vampire it was because he had surprise, or it was distracted, or a very new vamp. His thoughts turned even darker as her remembered what he had told Anya once when he'd had the, Spike inspired argument with Will and Buffy. He had said, "I'm not sure they're wrong."
Some part of him deep down still wasn't sure. Even after the things he had accomplished since. Did he really amount to anything?
The next morning Lara waited for Xander to arrive in the practice room and watched Akahito Daishi move gracefully through the forms. The old man was an expert in the martial art of Aikido, a sixth degree black belt. Lara had saved his daughter, Sachi, three years ago from a rather dangerous situation involving the Yakuza. The old man insisted that he owed her a debt, and Lara had kept in touch over the intervening years.
The problem of training Xander had brought Akahito to mind. A human fighting vampires hand-to-hand was generally not the brightest of ideas; vampires were, in general both faster and stronger. Aikido, however, was based upon using your opponent's own force to defeat him. To a point, it didn't matter how much stronger the person you were fighting was than you, a person skilled in Aikido could still defeat them. Also fortunately, most vampires didn't know how to fight in the first place.
She knew it worked from personal observation: once seeing Akahito go through a pack of vampires in a matter of seconds. Dusting the last before the ashes of the first had even settled. There hadn't been a single wasted motion, he had just seemed to flow, a human whirlwind.
Xander entered the room, pausing briefly at the sight of the old man. Lara watched as he approached her. In spite of his smile she saw the brooding look had returned to his eyes. She was going to have to work on that.
As Xander arrived Akahito smoothly ended his kata's and glided over to them.
"Xander this is Akahito Daishi. He's going to be teaching you for as long as you're here."
She smiled at his hesitation. "My particular style of fighting is not the most...effective when dealing with things like vampires. Akahito is going to show you a better way."
"Hajimamashite, Alexander." The old man's accent was pronounced, but his words were clearly understandable. "Lara has spoken to me of your fight against the darkness. It is a noble thing that you do, of which I highly approve. She has asked me to teach you Aikido so that you may accomplish your goals more effectively."
"Aikido, a la Steven Segal?" At their blank looks he said, "Okay, no Steven here. But him aside, isn't Aikido supposed to be defensive?"
The old man said, "Is not keeping yourself alive a most excellent goal? For you cannot complete your task if you are not still living to accomplish it. Shall we begin?"
Akahito stepped away onto the mat, and Xander, glancing once at Lara, followed.
Bryce glanced up from the circuit board he was soldering as Xander gimped into the room. The young man was moving slowly and gingerly.
"What happened to you?"
"A little Japanese guy."
Bryce stared at him a moment longer then shook his head. "Lara tried to get me to learn it, but the physical stuff isn't for me, it's just too painful. Any fighting comes along I have SIMON take care of it."
"A very sensible attitude, I'm beginning to think. Do you know where Lara is?"
Bryce gestured with the soldering iron. "Check the kitchen. Last I saw of her she mentioned getting something to eat."
"Thanks, man." Xander limped back out.
Xander entered the kitchen to find Lara at the table. Seeing what she was eating, in spite of his battered state, he smiled.
"Beans on toast?"
"Of course." Her mouth quirked. "I can't eat caviar and truffles all the time."
Wincing, as he sat down he said, "I don't think I've ever had that particular combination before."
Lara slid her plate, with the remaining piece, sideways to sit in front of him, and watched as he began to eat it. After a few moments Xander became a little uncomfortable under her silent scrutiny.
"Daishi Sensei is brutal," Xander said, breaking the silence when his arm gave a particularly violent twinge.
Lara continued to say nothing.
"You know, the silent stare gets a little unnerving after the first minute or so. Care to share what's behind it?" Popping the remaining bit into his mouth, he looked back at her.
Lara, apparently deciding something, stood. "Come with me, I have something to show you."
She stopped in the door when she realized he was still sitting at the table. "Is there something wrong?"
"Ah, sorta. You see, I'd really like to come with you," he said, giving her a pained smile. "But I can't seem to get up."