Teal'c's Wish

Teal'c's Wish

By Nycorson

Rating:PG
Summary:Teal'c makes a wish that changes the course of a few lives.
Pairing:Xander/Faith
Disclaimer:I don't own anything, this is strictly for fun, Joss and someone else owns all this.
Warning:Fights and language.

***

Teal’c was bored. No, that was not quite the right word; he thought for a moment and finally came up with one that seemed close, discontented. Yes that was the correct word, discontented. O’Neill had been promoted, SamCarter was busy with her studies, DanielJackson was very distracted by the woman Vala, and Teal’c was discontented.

Wandering the halls of SG1 he wondered why he was so discontented, the Jaffa were doing well, ignoring the political issues that currently existed. He watched people curiously, as he was surprisingly invisible for a huge Jaffa. Watching interactions, he went down to the training room and watched the people there, and finally it dawned on him what he was missing. He missed having a fellow warrior to share things with, someone who understood the point of fighting was to make sure your friends survived to walk away regardless of what you might suffer.

Trying to dispel the feeling of a hole in his life he went to see his son Rya’c and his wife for a while. But there everyone was taken up with the day-to-day activities just to survive. Life at SG1 had made him soft as he had so much time to himself, with all of his daily needs met through no effort of his own.

Back at Stargate Command, he wandered through the halls wondering what he should do about this lack in his life. As Teal’c turned a corner he almost ran into a young servicewoman he had never seen before. “I apologize for my lack of awareness.” He paused slightly confused at to her concentrated look at him. “Is there something with which I can assist you?”

A bright smile crossed her face as she looked at him. “No, actually I am here to assist you. You have been… discontented lately?”

Teal’c blinked as the word he had searched so long for came out of her mouth applied to him. But he answered “Yes, that is an appropriate definition of my state of being lately. How could you assist with that?” Curious as to how this woman could help him.

“Really easy, do you know what you need to no longer be so out of sorts?” Still she had that strangely bright smile.

He nodded his head slowly “I have come to realize I lack the company of another warrior, someone who understands what being a warrior is, to the core of their being.”

She smiled and spoke softly “Then I can help you… all you have to say is what you want with the words ‘I wish’ in front of that statement.”

“How exactly would those words help me find another warrior to talk and work with?” Teal’c was confused, usually those words were stuff he associated with Taur’i children or that Disney movie company, and they did not apply to him.

“I work really well with those words, after all, what is the worst that can happen from simply saying something.” A bright smile tilting her head as she watched him watch her. Teal’c who had never seen the Mummyä nodded and looking at her replied in a deadpan voice, “I wish I had a fellow warrior to share experiences with and work with.”

Her face changed, no longer sweet and young, but strange and some how repelling. “Granted.” Grinning at him widely she commented, “Tell him Hallie has paid back Anya.” And then she disappeared; standing in her place was a young man, with shaggy dark brown hair, an eye-patch and a wooden object in one hand.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!?!” yelled Xander, looking around him frantically, seeing only dark gray walls and military uniforms, his deep shit alarm was going off frantically while at the same time one of the passing air force personnel who had seen the woman disappear and the man appear had hit the alarm and over the loud speaker a voice blared “Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert!”

Teal’c obediently repeated what the woman had said, “Hallie has paid back Anya.”

The man whirled looked at him and went pale, “You used the W word, didn’t you? Oh shit.”

In minutes he was surrounded by men with guns, who took his stake and everything else on him, and then he was escorted to Medical.

Three hours later Xander was still sitting on the med table fidgeting nervously, watching the MP’s point guns at him. ~Military, great last place I wanted to be, all because Halfrek decides to pay Anya back, and I STILL can’t figure out if it is suppose to be a punishment or reward, or if this is an alternate universe or not. People need to be more careful about what they say, Hell at least I didn’t have my wallet on me so it will be harder to figure out who I am, but still.~ he fumed silently. All around him medical personnel had poked and prodded, taking blood, EKG’s, ECG’s, and a lot of other tests he really just wanted to forget about.

Finally the door opened and the huge black man he had appeared in front of, along with a General and a Colonel walked into the room. ~something is off about that black guy, besides the funny tattoo, he is just… wrong, argh what is it?~ Resisting the still latent urge to salute he sat there with a mutinous look on his face, still dressed in the bloody hospital gown that showed off his ass, scars, and way too much else.

The doctor standing next to him spoke “He is clean General, no bugs, signs of any naquadah, or anything else. The only odd thing is his ECG’s, it is almost like we were scanning two minds occasionally, but then the results would change back to only his. Very odd.”

The General looked at Xander with a long careful look. “Has he said anything else yet?” Since his last sentence of “You used the W word, didn’t you? Oh shit.” Had been heard by Teal’c, he had not said a thing.

“Well son, ready to talk and tell us who you are, how you got here, and why you are here?” Everyone up to and including the President wanted to know who he was, how he got there, and the answers to a lot of other questions. The red phone had been burning for the last two hours.

Xander looked at all of them carefully, ~Well the big black guy seems nice, maybe a bit sheepish, and is kinda odd. The colonel seems damn young for his rank, and the General.. well he is a bloody General, what do I expect??~ A soft frustrated sigh. “Depends, do I get out of this damn drafty gown and do I get something to eat, preferably with sugar?”

They all blinked looking at him, he had been awfully calm during the examination, nodding once to the armed guards who kept weapons trained on him at all times.

The General cleared his throat, “I think that can be arranged. Can we please get him a set of BDU’s, and escort him to one of the small briefing rooms.” The General turned and walked out, followed by the Captain, but the large black man stayed behind.

Xander sighed as they handed him a set of BDU’s, he pulled them on with everyone watching closely. ~great, the prime entertainment is me stripping and un-stripping AGAIN~ Then followed them to a small windowless room that had food on the table. “DONUTS!” Xander was there and had a jelly filled donut in his hand and then his mouth damn near before the guards realized he had moved. But since he was sitting eating the donuts with a speed they could only blink at, they quickly relaxed a little and took their place by the door.

Xander was not as oblivious as everyone thought, he saw the General and Colonel on the other end of the table knew the big guy had followed him in, and everyone was watching him torn between amusement and horror. He shrugged mentally ~I was bloody hungry, long night of slaying, and then this, they can bite me. Not like I plan on telling them much of anything anywho.~

“Now young man what is your name and who sent you?” The General demanded, though it was obvious he was trying to be somewhat nice about the whole situation.

Xander slowly licked his fingers off and looked at the military officers and shrugged, answering them literally. “Xander, Halfrek.”

They all blinked not really sure of how to respond to that short of an answer. But suddenly Teal’c spoke up. “The woman who was here mentioned Hallie, is that short for Halfrek?”

A long slow considering look and Xander nodded picking up a cheese Danish this time.

“Then General, I believe he is here because of me. I met a woman in the corridor, I had believed she was new personnel with SG1, she then asked me to make a wi…”

“DON’T SAY THAT WORD!” Xander shouted interrupting Teal’c startling the guards and surprising the officers. Teal’c merely looked at him eyes narrowing.

“What word would that be?” Asked the General and Colonel totally confused now.

“W – I – S – H. Never say the word. EVER!” Xander really didn’t care at this point if they locked him up, he was pretty damn certain Willow would find him if he stayed gone too long, but the ramifications of the wish were worrying the hell out of him.

“I see.” Replied Teal’c. “I made a statement for the woman using that word in regards to a fellow warrior, she said ‘granted’, disappeared, and this young man appeared.” His words calm but his eyes never left Xanders’.

“Okay let me get this straight, you made a w..” The Colonel stopped at the glare from Xander and changed his phrasing “a fond desire statement and this man appeared?” Teal’c nodded. “Oh give me a break. This is not Disneyland things like that don’t happen. Next you will tell me vampires and werewolves are real.”

At that statement Xander almost choked on the donut he was eating, powdered sugar came out his nose he was laughing so hard. “You have no fucking idea.”

The General took a deep breath to get a hold of his temper, really it was the weekend, he was suppose to be out of this hole in the ground and enjoying fresh air, but no some weirdo has to break into the base and then be cryptic about it.

“Okay son we are going to ask some questions and considering the sensitive nature of this base I really need some answers. You mentioned your name is Xander what is the rest of it?”

~yeah right like I want you guys running my name through your database, don’t think so~ Xander snorted to himself softly and just smiled saying “Xander.”

The General sighed, “What was the object you were holding when you got here?”

“Stake”

You could see the General trying to hold onto his temper, “And what is it used for?”

“Dusting.” Teal’c mouth twitched slightly, it had been a long time since he had seen someone respond so flatly to interrogation as a method to drive the interrogators to distraction. He was beginning to like this man.

“Fine, who is the Anya person, the name Hallie mentioned?” The General demanded, sensing he was rapidly loosing any control over the situation.

“Ex-fiancée” came the simple statement from Xander as he picked up another donut. ~black guy, what is it about him that is niggling at my brain, he is not a demon, but there is something about him.~ Watching Teal’c as he turned his head to take in the room.

Desperate the General picked up the medical report. “The doctors state here you are in good health but covered with scars and the damage to your orbital bone is severe, what caused the loss of the eye?” Hoping maybe interest in the man would make him relax a little.

“Thumb”

The General was about strangle him but the Colonel interrupted “You mean thumb, as in opposable.” As he held up his hand and waggled his thumb.

“Yep.”

“ouch..” All of the men in the room shuddered at the thought of an eye being gouged out with a thumb. Teal’c looked at him a little more seriously. Scars, eye loss, maybe his ‘wish’ had been accurate and this was a warrior.

“Are you going to answer anything I ask with more than an one word answer?”

“Maybe.”

“Look here young man, you are in a high security base, you shouldn’t be able to be here, why do you refuse to answer our questions?! What are you so leery of?” Frustrated and getting more so by the minute.

A long considering look as he licked the last bits of sugar from his hands. “NID” More to see the reactions than anything else. He did not expect the blank look on the colonel’s face, but the severe concern on the black man’s and the General’s face had him a little more worried, and a touch relieved.

“I see, you have had negative run ins with NID previously?” Now the general was really concerned, who the hell was this man?

“Yep.” Was all Xander said, finally giving up and focusing on the black man. ~what the hell is it about him that has me so bloody focused?~

There was suddenly a knock on the door, and a guard stuck his head through “Sir Lt. Colonel Carter and Jacob/Selmac are here and wanted to say something before they left.”

The General looked at the very unprepossessing young man and all the military in the room and sighed shrugging. “Sure send him in.”

Xander looked up at the woman who walked in ~hmm.. odd she had a bit of what the big guy has~ and then he looked at the man and he freaked “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” Faster than any of them could react he was on the far side of the wall, looking at Jacob/Selmac with undisguised confusion and fear. “Huh?” Was the first thing that came out of Colonel Mitchell’s mouth. “What are you talking about?”

“That thing, what the fuck is that thing?!?” Trying very hard not to panic.

Jacob went white, this man saw the Tok’ra inside him. This was not good, suddenly Selmac took over and spoke in his weird vibrating voice. “You have a Perceiver, where did you find a Perceiver?”

Everyone was looking at Xander who was wide eyed, attention locked on to the figure of Jacob/Selmac as someone slowly asked “What is a Perceiver?”

Selmac replied as Jacob was still confused “One who sees what others can not.”

“oh fuck” came the whisper from Xander.

It had taken a while but finally everyone was calmed down, the marines had quit pointing weapons at Xander, Jacob/Selmac and Sam were sitting at the table. Xander had asked to be left in the corner where he felt a little more secure, and they had given him a chair to sit on.

The General now even more confused looked at Xander and in an almost begging tone “Will you answer our questions now?”

Xander sighed “I need you to answer a few of mine first, swear nothing classified I just need to know some things.”

The General shrugged “If it doesn’t reveal any sensitive information I will see if I can.”

“Okay then first question, do you have shrimp here?”

Most of the people at the table blinked and the Colonel responded, “You mean little pink things that come from the sea that you eat with cocktail sauce?”

“I will take that as a yes then.” Xander nodded a bit oddly relieved. “What day is it?”

This time the General responded “April 23, 2005.” Not really sure where this was going.

~well same time flow, they have shrimp so probably not an alternate dimension, now to check on the same reality~ “What does the phrase 9-11 mean to you.”

This time everyone was a lot worried but the General answered, “The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centers, was on September 11th.”

“Damn…. “ Xander sank into the chair a little and looked at them with a rather despondent look on his face. “Okay, ask your questions, I will try to answer them.” The entire time his eyes rarely left the figure of Selmac/Jacob.

“Finally!” said a very exasperated General, ignoring the flash of humor on Sam’s’ face, Teal’c he didn’t know well enough yet to recognize the twist of humor in his eyes. “What were all those questions about?”

A soft shrug “I identified that I was probably in the same dimension, reality, and time period.”

Everyone in the room froze; this unprepossessing young man obviously had some experience in dimension and reality traveling to speak so calmly about them. “So why are you here?”

A snort of laughter “You won’t believe me, but magic is real, he” pointing to Teal’c “Made a request in front of a vengeance demon named Halfrek, and boom, here I am.”

There was a mixture of reactions in the room from outright disbelief to laughter at the statement, “What you think this is a fairy tale?” came from the Colonel Mitchell.

”Hello no, fairy tales never have happy endings for everyone, at least not the real fairy tales. My life sucks too much to be in a Disney fairy tale.” Various people chuckled at that, but Xander just sat there, unmoved and uncaring about what they thought, finally when the laughter died down a little he spoke “Now tell me what that thing is inside that man.” It was barely a request and more of a command.

“Wait what thing?” Asked a confused and worried Sam as everyone else had frozen looking at Xander then at Selmac. They had seen him react to Jacob/Selmac, but not actually registered what he had said.

“The snake like thingy wrapped around inside him, wrapped around his soul. He has it too, but like on a ratio of 1 to 20 comparatively.” Pointing to Teal’c. “you have an echo in you as if you once did or something.” Sam paled.

The face of every person with rank in the room lit up and focused on Xander “You mean you can tell there is a Tok’ra in him? By LOOKING?” The Colonels’ voice actually went up an octave.

“Hell if I know, I just know there is some thingy that’s kinda gray and shiny wrapped around in side him and it is making me damn queasy.” Xander was slowly beginning to relax then an awful thought struck him ~how do I know this is the real military? Nah.. no one here has lied about anything yet, so lets wait and see.~

“General do you know what this means? He would be able to see any Goa’uld that was trying any sort of infiltration, and from what he said about Teal’c he would be able to see Jaffa also.” Sam and the Colonel were chattering excitedly at the General, while Jacob/Selmac watching him warily.

~oh shit I have a bad feeling that I just got turned into a thingy sniffer, and I really don’t like leashes.~ Xander was getting more and more worried as he listened to them discuss the ramifications of his ‘abilities.’ So wrapped up that he did not notice Teal’c had wandered over closer to him. “Damn I just want to go home.”

Teal’c heard him say that and said softly. “I am sorry Xander, I would send you home if I could.” With those words Xander disappeared, and everyone in the room freaked out. Teal’c stood there and looked for a long time ignoring the absolute bedlam around him, Selmac demanding they return the Perceiver, the General wanting to know what Teal’c had done with Xander, the Colonel and Sam both trying to figure out if the Asgard had taken him. Teal’c made a decision to research what exactly a wish was, because Perceiver or not, he rather enjoyed Xander being around, it made things interesting.

*back in Cleveland*

“Xander why were you so late getting back from patrol?” had been the main question asked by everyone in regards to his disappearance. Brushing everyone off with a story of getting lost in the dark, most people eventually bought it. The exceptions being Willow and Faith, they looked at him not believing at all, but did not push the issue.

Buffy had just shrugged and made a comment about lack of direction sense and went off on to her other stuff. She had taken to finding fault in everything Xander did lately, putting him down at every chance, and no one really knew why. She had relaxed a lot since they had gotten there and was warming up to everyone and becoming the Buffy they knew, except towards Xander. It was starting to worry and concern more than a few people.

A few days went by and everyone relaxed and mostly forgot about his absence and Xander finally had a chance to pull Willow to one side.

“Hey Wills, I need um… a bit of mumbo jumbo from you.” He asked trying to not show how uneasy this made him.

“You are asking for magic… dang don’t know whether to be impressed or worried. What do you need?” Teasing him a bit, she had been very good about using only white magic.

Xander impulsively hugged her “Yeah sorry just something that occurred to me. Can you mojo me up a necklace that I can contact you with or you can find me if you need to? Getting lost the other night made me realize that having a communicator might be a really good idea, but give me some key words to turn it off and on, please?” Asked Xander, batting his eye at her, and looking really ridiculous with only one eye to bat. “If I am getting lucky I would like to NOT be disturbed.” Winking at his best friend.

“OOoh… is there something you should be telling me?” Teasing him back, her and Kennedy were about the only couple in the place as Faith and Robin had drifted apart.

“Nope, but a guy has to hope doesn’t he?” Xander grin and sauntered away, quickly focusing on the trouble he could feel coming his way.

*Cheyenne Mountain*

Teal’c had spent the past week doing research. When asked DanielJackson was very helpful in providing him with ‘fairy tales’ and information on magic, along with a stern lecture that there was no such thing as magic. Teal’c had simply nodded and taken the books to read. Many of them were indeed children’s stories, but he now fully understood the concept of a wish and even why a wish might be a bad thing, the story The Midas Touch had under scored the need to be careful what you ask for.

Selmac had been most vocal as to how precious a Perceiver was, and the fact they could NOT be lied to and would see things, even hidden things with ease. The Tok’ra as a whole wanted Xander back to help in the fight against the remaining Goa’uld. They were running his fingerprints and DNA through every database they had, hoping to get a hit, but it would take close to a week before they got the results. Right now the young one-eyed man was the subject of discussion for almost everyone.

*Cleveland*

Two days later he had a simple necklace with a silver chaos symbol on it, after all he attracted chaos didn’t he? Along with a note that the activation word was abracadabra and the deactivation was bibbipty-bobbity-boo. Xander didn’t know whether to beat his head on the floor or laugh at her command words, but they were obviously not stuff that would come up in normal everyday communication. Her note also said she was working on making some for the others, but his was unique in that he could control it, the others would just be 911 devices.

Finally taking a deep breath he started to relax, no military guys around, no vengeance demons, and no strange occurrences, maybe he could breath again. ~though would be nice to have figured out what the hell a Tok’ra and Goa’uld are, and why I can see them. But the lying thing is accurate, noticed that the slayers can’t even fib about doing chores to me, makes my life easier~ he thought. It had been a week since the strange trip and he was more than ready to move on. It had been a long hard day repairing stuff around the house and basically being treated like a hired hand, but he ignored all of that because there was a free shower with his name on it. ~shower, shower, all mine, girls on patrol, so I get a HOT shower~ he caroled to himself, and soon that is where Xander was enjoying a nice hot LONG shower with no one pounding on the door demanding to be let in.

*Cheyenne Mountain*

Teal’c sat in his room and thought about everything, they still had not figured out exactly who the man was, but it was only a matter of time. Everything here was still hectic and part of Teal’c realized that he missed the strange chaos Xander had caused. That and he was still discontented and lonely. Sitting alone in his room just the candle glow flicking he spoke out loud. “I would have liked to gotten to know this Xander, the Perceiver better.”

There was a small crack and Teal’c opened his eyes to see a naked, soap covered Xander standing in the middle of his room frozen.

Xander slowly opened his eye, the lack of water telling him stuff he did not want to know and looked at Teal’c, his shoulders sank. “You have got to be freaking kidding me. Again???” Water dripped off him onto the floor. A long slow sigh from Xander “Towel please?”

Teal’c took a look at the body in front of him, scarred and worn, not at the peak of shape, but good muscle structure, and reactions. He nodded and started digging through his closet.

It had taken about 20 minutes for Teal’c to get Xander some BDU’s that he could wear, get him dried off, and for Xander to curl up on the floor looking at him with an expectant look on his face.

“Please tell me you did not make another request? Especially not from a woman?” Xander asked softly, still half expecting guards to burst into the room and drag him off to be fitted with his own little collar and leash.

Teal’c shook his head “No, I was sitting here… meditating and I made the statement that I would have liked to gotten to know you better, and then you appeared in my room.”

Xander leaned his head back and slowly thudded it against the wall over and over. Teal’c arched an eyebrow simply watching this human, finally Xander stopped and looked at him then closed his eye again.

“I guess that the military knows what you are, and since I have never seen them put a demon in any sort of position of responsibility, I would guess you are an alien, as is the other man I saw?” Not even looking at him as he talked, exhaustion and worry seeping from his posture.

Teal’c arched a brow, he was not sure how to answer that, revealing what he was, was restricted, yet this man could apparently see him. Making his choice he answered “Correct and incorrect, I am a human, but I have within me a symbiotic alien.” Teal’c decided to leave it at that.

“I see, and your alien is different from the other guys?” Still eye closed, the eyelid sunken over where his eye was missing, the shadows causing him to look older than he was.

“Mine is.. dormant, the other alien is an active personality that shares awareness with Jacob’s personality.” Teal’c tried to explain and part of him was wondering if this was an incorrect course of action.

“I see, so I was not wrong when I thought they might want to make me an alien sniffer. How…. Important is this.. what I can do?” Voice so quiet almost depressed.

“It is rather important Xander, the Goa’uld have tried to destroy this world and enslave all who reside here as well as other planets. They are mostly defeated now, but they have become more subtle and are infiltrating us, both here and on other planets. We also have problems with a new race called the Ori.”

His eye cracked open “there are more than just two planets with intelligent life on it?”

“Yes Xander. I have personally been on over 50 planets with intelligent life and many more that have not yet developed to that point.”

“Cool.. okay a few points on the pro column.” Xander reached up and played with the necklace, he had put it on immediately after Willow got it to him, and was very glad. ~okay I know Wills can get me out of here, but the question becomes do I want to go, am I needed here, can I deal with the military. Joy joy joy… ~

There was a knock on the door and it swung open with Xander frozen looking at it, and Teal’c was up and moving quickly as Daniel Jackson walked in looking at the book in his hands.

“Teal’c I wanted you to look at this and le…” he trailed off, surprised as Teal’c pulled him in and swiftly shut the door behind him. Daniel blinked looking at Teal’c then the man sitting on the floor staring at him with intensity. “Oops.. sorry didn’t realize you had a visitor, I can leave.” He turned then paused and looked back at Xander mind racing ~young, one-eye, black hair~ “Wait you are the guy everyone has been in an uproar about all week aren’t you. Teal’c WHAT is he doing here?”

Teal’c shrugged leaning against his door “Talking with me.”

Xander snorted “Hey don’t look at me I am just the victim of a nasty demon with an even nastier sense of humor.”

“Demons aren’t real.” Was the automatic retort from Daniel as he warily looked at Xander.

Xander smiled a very not nice smile “Neither are aliens, but you have one standing behind you.”

“Teal’c!! You told him, how could you tell him? You know aliens are suppose to be classified.” Daniel stared at Teal’c in horror, ignoring the amused snort coming from Xander still sitting on the ground.

“He didn’t tell me, it was kind of obvious once you think about it, and since I knew they weren’t demons…” Xander shrugged.

Daniel spluttered a little but had a hard time arguing that point, from what he had heard about the meeting, this young man had freaked out hard core upon seeing Selmac, and Selmac had been freaking a little at the existence of what he called a Perceiver. “Umm.. so I know I shouldn’t ask this, but why is he here, and why aren’t there any MP’s or brass like people around.” Looking back at Teal’c warily, finally noticing he was leaning against the door blocking any exit or entrance.

“He is not a threat DanielJackson. And he did not come here of his own choosing, I dislike the idea of him becoming a prisoner because he is different.” Daniel blinked at that and ignored the slight hysterical giggles coming from Xander.

Xander muttered to himself, “Not a prisoner? I am linked to a bloody alien through a request granted by Halfrek, and I am starting to sound like Giles. Good Lord.” Xander almost flinched as he heard himself say that last bit. “I need a drink.”

Daniel still focused on Teal’c though he heard the name Giles and filed it, continued with his thoughts “And how do you know he is not a threat, he shows up out of no where, claims a demon sent him, and you trust that??”

“Hey I did not say a Demon sent me, I said he” pointing to Teal’c “had a stupid choice in words and brought me here. BIG difference.”

They both ignored him for a moment and Teal’c replied “He is a warrior, like I am. He is trustworthy.” Things were occasionally that simple for Teal’c.

At that Xander slowly stood up, normally he was not exactly intimidating, but without the patch the loss of an eye made him more sinister and threatening, he then ruined it by talking “Hey.. no warrior here, zeppo, donut boy, carpenter, that is all, I am not a warrior.”

Daniel was confused, this man was arguing that he was not a warrior? Then Daniel snickered a little bit, how often had he argued that he was not military, but who would believe that looking at him.

Teal’c arched a brow and looked at him “You lost your eye by someone gouging it out with a thumb.” Ignoring the muttered ‘not someone, something’ from Xander. “You have scars all over your body from various fights, and you are aware of the entrance and exit of every room you enter. You are a warrior.” Stating it as a fact.

Daniel spoke up hesitatingly “Do I want to know how you know he has scars all over his body?” Asking Teal’c.

“No.” Replied Xander and Teal’c at the same time. Xander sighed shaking his head. “I just fight and do what is needed to help, I am not the warrior, Buf... others are.” Changing what he said mid word.

Taking a deep breath Xander looked at both of them. “How important is it for me to be this Perceiver type guy, and why should I?” Xander wanted nothing more than to go home and hide in his bed; but he had never been able to ignore the fact that there was darkness out there so he had to ask, to know before he could decide.

Teal’c looked at Daniel who looked him, then sighed and sat down on Teal’c’s bed. “Important, the Goa’uld and the Ori are both aliens that seem to bent on destroying us. We have defeated a large number of Goa’uld, but the ones that are left are getting sneakier and more likely to infiltrate places including Earth. The Jaffa council, treats us like children. And the Ori are like bible thumping preachers on speed, and either you believe or die seems to be their message.” He paused as Xander went deathly white.

“Preachers, preaching the word of their god? Oh lord, what did I do to deserve this?” Shaky Xander sat back down, flashing back to Caleb and losing his eye. His had reached up and rubbed the orbital bone around where it had been. “shit…” There was a long deep silence. Then finally he spoke up. “Tell you what, talk to your guys, tell them I am willing to listen to them. But I will NOT be a dog on the leash for them, they need to justify what they would need me to do, and how I would work out here. Please stress I can and will leave if I do not agree to the situation.”

Teal’c and Daniel blinked, looking at him, the young foolish man hand just disappeared and instead there was a hard warrior stating what he expected to have done. Teal’c nodded “I will let them know.”

“Good. Teal’c tell me I can go home now.” Xander ordered standing slowly and looking at him.

Teal’c blinked “You may go home Xander.” Xander disappeared leaving a slightly amused Teal’c and a confused and stunned Daniel.

“What the HELL was that?! How did he do that, where did he go?” Daniel demanded searching the room.

”I assume he went home.” Stated Teal’c opening the door, “Shall we go talk to people now?”

*Cleveland*

Xander reappeared exactly where he was when he disappeared, in the shower, however at this time the shower was occupied with a wet naked Faith.

“Xander, I know you are hot for me, but we really need to talk about your timing and sudden teleportation ability.” She stated sarcastically as he tried very hard to not look at the wet naked body in front of him.

Closing his eye “Okay, okay, you and Willow and I will talk. Please get a towel so I can get out of here, and get out of my now wet clothes?” He begged softly.

A fully clothed soaking wet Xander walked out of the bathroom into the hallway, followed by a wet towel clad Faith; walking right into Buffy.

She looked them both up and down and sneered “Yesh Xander, and here I thought you had some taste, lord only knows where she has been.” Giving Faith a disdainful look.

Faith bristled, she had not even done anything. She opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off by Xander placing his hand on her arm.

“What’s the matter Buffy, jealous because I would rather shower with Faith than worship at your feet. Sorry I have never been good at being a pet dog.” And he walked away to his room, feet squelching on the carpet as he walked, fuming a lot at Buffy’s arrogance and her way of treating Faith. ~damn her why has she been such a bitch to me lately. As far as I can see the guy Faith killed and I are the only two who should be that mad at her, and I forgave her a long time ago.~ Xander froze and turned as Faith was about to go into her room. Buffy had stomped down the stairs in a snit. “Hey Faith?”

She looked up “Yeah former boytoy?” Trying for nonchalance, but inside hurting from Buffy’s comments.

“You know I forgave you a long time ago, right?”

She blinked looking at him and part of her relaxed, she had regretted that night almost more than killing the guy. “No I hadn’t but thanks.” She ducked her head a bit and slipped into her room.

Xander sighed ~I have been too lax lately, we more than any of us should know there is not always a tomorrow to say things, and I have a feeling my time is shorter than most.~ Quickly he changed into dry clothes, grabbed his patch feeling a little less the monster as it was slipped back on.

He stood out side his room for a moment waiting for Faith, who quickly walked out, he had to resist the drool reaction, Faith still looked damn good and knowing what she looked like naked with water and soap sliding down her body. Xander shook his head, ~okay libido now is NOT the time for that, later tonight, when we are in bed with the door locked.. but now remember military and off the wall W’s.~

“Ready? I figure I need Willow, not Buffy, she would freak over this hard core, and there is something else going on with this.”

Faith arched a brow “Something more interesting that your ability to teleport into women’s showers? I am impressed I would have thought that was every man’s dream.”

A soft snort “Well you would be in my top ten definitely. But yeah, more weirdo stuff attached to the zeppo.”

Faith snickered as they walked “And who would be number one pray tell?” Just idly curious ~what the hell is a zeppo?~ she wondered.

“Lynda Carter of course, my wonder woman, oh yum.” Xander unfocused for a moment then snapped back “Bad Xander, bad Xander, not fantasy time.” Shaking his head as he walked with Faith following behind him trying to not giggle.

They found Willow in the kitchen “Wills, we need to talk, now.. lets go for a walk.” Xander had on his serious look, and Willow flinched, that look was never followed by good news. Quickly putting her coffee in a travel mug, she slipped on shoes and followed them out, they quietly walked to a nearby park. It was early morning and no one was around. Willow turned to look at them and teased a little needing to break the tension and worry she felt.

“What do you need me to whip up an contraceptive potion?” Winking at Faith.

They both sighed and rolled there eyes “Does NO ONE believe that I would not sleep with another man’s girl?” Xander sighed.

Faith blinked “Um… Robin and I aren’t dating, we were just fucking for a while, but soon after we got here, he told me it was ‘bad for his image’ so I ain’t dating or having sex with him.”

“Oh…” Xander sidetracked a moment with that information. “Okay…well that is not what we need to talk about.”

Faith laughed “Yeah what we need to talk about is Xander’s ability to teleport into showers while people are there. Wet naked people, I might add.” Laughing a little.

Willows eyes got big “You can teleport, oh cool, when did it start, can you control it or is it automatic with out you thinking about where… “

“Willow HALT.” Willow broke off realizing she had gone into Willow babble again and shrugged, making herself comfortable.

“Basically Halfrek granted some military guy a W, and he can basically call me to him where ever he is. A big military base “ he waved aside Willow’s and Faiths startled remarks and kept going “The bigger problem is, aliens are real, called the Goa’uld and Ori, and apparently I can see them easily, they said I was a Perceiver, which is way too close to Caleb and the ‘One Who Sees’ crap for my comfort. What is worse is they are going to figure out who I am, and I can’t stop myself from going. Luckily the guy the W was given to, Teal’c, is pretty cool, but they say they need me to help with this war, it is all scary and I am not happy about it, but they are telling the truth and I need to NOT become a dog on the leash. So I need help.” Xander took a breath, he knew that had come out kind of rushed and jumbled, but dang it he was worried.

Both Faith and Willow sat there and looked at him before looking at each other and damn near replying as one ‘Aliens are real? Cool.”

Xander rolled his eyes at Willow and Faith. “Yes aliens are real, and apparently I can see them or something. Not really sure yet, but I don’t think the military is going to leave me alone. So… I come begging for help, from both of you.”

Faith blinked, help from her? “You need help from me?”

Willow responded for both of them. “Sure Xan, what do you need? Military is bad news, unless of course you are Riley?” She grinned. Faith just nodded, curious now more than ever.

aren’t dating Robin. Willow this communication thingy, can you put a locator spell on it also, so that when I say some phrase you can find me anywhere? Well.. maybe just in the US. I know it was US military so that kind of limits it. I hope. Faith… um… “ Xander looked sheepish looking down on the ground “You can say no if you want, but you wanna come with me?”

Faith blinked looking at him a little confused. “Come with you where?”

H shuffled his feet a little “I hate to ask, but I suspect that I am going to be doing stuff where it would be really nice to have someone at my back I can trust to get me out of there alive, or… kill me if needed.” He looked up at her honesty in his eye.

She felt stunned, Xander trusted her, after all she had done. “Why do you trust me?”

“Simple, you are more realistic than Buffy, you will kill me if you have to, she would spend too much time endangering others. That and lately she seems to hate the very sight of me. Besides if I read this right, this is a … team that goes in and goes out to other planets. They have one fighter…warrior there already. He is a huge guy named Teal’c, he’s an alien. So would be nice to have a friend with me, and maybe someone to convince them that I am not going to be their pet dog. You wouldn’t be fighting vampires, but you might be fighting things that are more interesting. I might be all wrong, but it is all I can think of to NOT end-up being a lab rat or alien sniffing Xander-dog.”

Faith looked at him and a slow smile spread over her face “So I go with you and act as your bodyguard. Oh I like that idea; I am more than willing to cover your body.” Winking at Xander and smiling at him.

Xander swallowed a bit ~libido DOWN~ “umm.. okay thanks.. I think. Willow what I was thinking is next time I go, I activate the locator and you bring Faith with you to where ever I am, as a show of power. And maybe they will treat me or us as allies and not tools. And it will also give me a way to get out of there if they go back on their words. Oh… since I am thinking about it, can you make it so none can pull off this necklace, unless I do? Might help keep us alive.”

Willow thought about this for a little bit, then nodded slowly. “how about I make the necklace untouchable, no one else but you can touch it, that is easier than un-removable, too many risk factors there. As for showing up with Faith on the locator…. Yeah, will take me an hour or so to get the spell ready, but once I know it for sure and lock it on your necklace I should be able to use it at any time. But remember to call us in a space where we can fit, elevator bad, room good.” Nodding lots. “But I do have a price for all this.” A wicked grin on her face. “I want to meet an alien!”

A soft bit of laughter from Xander, “Somehow I don’t think that will be an issue.”

“Oh goody, I get to meet Aliens; Andrew is going to be so jealous!” Willow giggled practically dancing with joy.

“ACK! NO telling Andrew anything, oh god, no he would be the worst, no this is not warm fuzzy aliens this is serious bad deadly stuff.” Xander panicked just imagining Andrew with this knowledge.

“Oh I know that, just going to make smiling at him smugly for a while, very very fun.” Willow grinned. “But the rest, you got it. Should be a different challenge and some other ideas I should implement. Faith I will do the same thing for you with a necklace, untouchable, locator, and help call built in.”

“Cool, thanks Wils, I will be the super-Slayer.” Faith grinned getting more and more excited about the idea. But she had never run into the Initiative so she was not as wary as Willow and Xander were.

Xander sighed in relief ~good, I was worried she would not be able to pull that off, okay, that puts a few safety plans in place~ Speaking out loud. “Well that gets us to the next part, I don’t want either of you to say anything to Giles or Buffy or anyone until we know exactly what is going to happen and when. I don’t want them upset or worrying about what might not come. So I guess we do some simple packing and then wait. But Willow, I suspect we have only a day or two before I end up there again.

*Cheyenne Mountain 3 days later*

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the information requested on one Alexander Lavelle Harris, and it is not good.” The general sighed looking at the assembled group. Anise had demanded to be included much to everyone’s frustration. Sam was there, Jacob/Selmac, Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, Teal’c, Daniel, and this time even Vala, though she came mainly because she was bored, and this Xander character had definitely been making people jumpy around here. And that was highly amusing to her.

“This is his file.” The general dropped a thin folder on the desk. “It tells me where he was born, where he went to high school, and parents’ name, everything else was under a classification code I could not ACCESS!” His voice had been rising at the last five words, until he yelled the last few words. “Who or what the hell is this kid that at 24 his file is classified so much that I can’t even ready anything other than his bio?”

A few people grabbed for the file and looked at what was in there, two sheets of paper, one labeled bio that had the basic facts of whom Alexander Harris was, the other under activities was one word, CLASSIFIED.

Teal’c arched a brow and hid a smile, ~a warrior indeed one with powerful friends, or given his experience with NID, powerful enemies~ He listened to the uproar for a while and looked at the clock, approximately 3 pm, hopefully that would prevent a repeat of Xander’s last appearance. Teal’c was very nervous, he had not had time to talk to Xander in private, but he recognized impending explosion between the officers and the Tok’ra. Anises’ screech made him wince as she demanded they find the Perceiver at once and bring him here to be used to fight the Goa’uld and Ori.

A soft sigh and Teal’c spoke so quietly no one could hear him, testing his theory for the first time. “I would like to see Xander.”

There was a soft crack and Xander, who had been sitting in a chair at the time reading, materialized falling directly on his ass. The entire room went still looking at him as he stood up, rubbing his ass. He looked around at the gathered group, “Well I feel honored, three aliens, a general, two lieutenant colonels, one unranked human, and one…” he paused for a moment looking at Vala frowning slightly “one who use to be infested with an alien.” He turned to Sam again and looked “Ah and you had one too. Much longer ago though.”

The whole room was stunned until the general yelled “GUARDS!” about at the same time people were scrambling back away from him, Xander touched the necklace saying softly “abracadabra Willow, show time.”

Guards raced into the room, looking at the chaos, though Vala was sitting on her chair both stunned and amused, with a smile on her face. ~oh I like this man, so much chaos with a few comments, he could be fun~ watching the show and Teal’c standing up trying to decide whether to protect Xander or get out of the way. The guards after a moments hesitation pointed their guns at Xander who was standing peaceably against the wall hands by his side, waiting.

“FREEZE!” Came their shout, and Xander rolled his eye.

“I am standing against the wall with my hands by my sides what more do you want?” He asked sarcastically.

The MP’s didn’t move keeping him in their sights while the rest of the room recovered from his surprising appearance. The general spoke “We know who you are Alexander Lavelle Harris and I want answers this time.”

Xander winced “Please just Xander, ick. Not a problem I would like some answers too.”

Just then there was a very sharp crack and a cute red head and a sultry brunette appeared in the room in front of Xander.

Willow looked around her eyes flooded grey, “Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado? Not what I was expecting. Naughty, naughty, pointing weapons at people.” She waved her hands and the weapons disappeared and the door shut and locked with the guards having been neatly pushed out the door.

Mitchell rushed at them, only to have Faith neatly flip him and put him in a headlock before he knew what hit him. “Really you invite people here and this is how you act, has anyone told you, you are a very bad host?” An amused Faith asked.

Xander sighed and looked at everyone, resisting the urge to wink at Teal’c. “My bodyguards, a Witch and a Slayer. Now are we ready to talk like adults? Or are you going to keep yelling for the people with guns?”

Shock froze everyone again as they looked at the three unprepossessing young people. In thirty seconds they had isolated the room, immobilized one officer, and revealed information that no one should know.

Xander, emulating a confidence he really didn’t feel, pulled up a chair while Willow and Faith took up positions behind him. “I believe you wanted to talk about me working with you in my role as…” he looked at Selmac/Jacob “I believe you called it a Perceiver?”

Anise infuriated at these two Taur’i coming in and controlling the meeting stood up, and began demanding, “This man must come with us and help in the fight. Why are we giving him a choice, you order him to come and aid us as we see fit. The Tok’ra are fighting for our existence and we are not going to listen to young children with delusions of their place in this outfit.”

She started to go on when Willow rolled her eyes and said in a clear voice, “Please let Xander talk.”

Anise glared at her, her lip curling up in a sneer. “I will not let children tell me what to do, you have no idea what we face or understand the concept of fighting to protect lives.” Her voice was spiteful and mean. Xander paled and leaned away from her.

“oh that was stupid” came out as a soft mutter. Teal’c started to get worried, Xander did not seem like someone who over reacted to most things.

Willow just smiled at her, eyes focusing on Anise. “I said, BE QUIET!” The sound coming out of Anise mouth was gone, her mouth was still moving but nothing came out. “We are here with your one and only chance to convince Xander to work with you, if not we will leave and you will never see us again.” Willows voice icy, her eyes grey pools, and even Jacob/Selmac flinched a little.

Everyone in the room turned looked at Anise, whose face was turning red as she tried to make noise come out of her mouth. Jacob started it with a low chuckle that he tried to hide, then Sam and Daniel started to laughing, and Teal’c finally grinned a big wide grin as Anise got redder and redder.

Daniel spoke up “Thank you. You do not know how long I wanted to do that, she does NOT speak for all of us.”

Willow nodded her head regally, internally trying very hard to not fall on the floor laughing.

Xander smiled a little as the mood in the room changed from one of wary antagonism to shared amusement, at least everyone but Anise. She was still fuming but had at least given up trying to talk. Xander cleared his throat a little and everyone looked at him, he frantically reminded himself, that he really didn’t want the military knocking on their doors, so it was an impress them now situation. “Gentleman, ladies, aliens... I have been fighting things wanting to destroy us, in one form or another since I was 15. I am more than willing to listen to what you have to say and take it under consideration, but be aware I will only work WITH you. I will not be a tool for you to use, nor will be a resource you can pimp out where you want. My friends behind me came to make sure you take this seriously. I have people who will not like the fact I am even talking to you, but I take what I have previously found out very seriously which is why I am here. So talk.”

Xander sat back and tried to hide the fact this his hands were shaking, he was soaked with sweat and nervous as all hell. Faith reached forward touching his shoulder lightly. Xander reached up and touched her hand in thanks, but never took his eyes off the assembled group.

As much as Teal’c wanted to speak it was not his place, glancing at Daniel he saw the typical concern and interest in others in his eyes, as well as an intense desire to find out how the red head had done that.

The General looked at the silent fuming Anise, the stoic Jacob who looked suspiciously like he was trying to not smile, Mitchell was red faced as he slipped back to his chair, having been taking down by a slip of a girl. The General took a deep breath and sighed “Look, I know our reaction hasn’t been the best, but you appeared in the middle of a very secure military basis in a way that should not be possible, so you have to understand our concern about this matter.”

Xander nodded “I do, I understand how upset this might make you, which is one of the reasons I am here, instead of telling you all to fuc.. take a flying leap. There are forces in this universe you don’t understand and not everything can be explained by science. I was brought here by magic, and not out of any desire to be here. But I have fought for this world for a long time, so I am willing to listen to what you have to say, but ONLY if I am an equal partner in this.” His voice was hard and flat, and Xander was very glad he and Faith had done a lot of practicing the last few days over everything they might say about his presence.

The General nodded slowly “I still don’t accept or understand how you came here, as I don’t believe in magic. But you are here and if the Tok’ra are correct we need your help here.”

Willow spoke up, her eyes back to their normal green. “What would it take to make you believe in magic?” Tilting her head a bit curious.

Daniel answered this as the General paused “I don’t think there is anything you can do, that I haven’t seen done by technology, so I can’t think of anything.”

Willow nodded “So just say I have an advanced form of technology that can only be learned through extensive study, and I call the technology magic. It might make you feel better. Just… don’t argue with most people who say they have magic, some of them get rather … persnickety when you say it isn’t possible. They might prove it to you in a very fatal way.” She shrugged and went back to watching everyone, though she was very tempted to do some not so nice pranks.

The group at the table thought about that, technology that was just called magic, most of them could live with that, as lots of them could not use ancient technology or the Goa’uld technology.

“Fine I can live with that, I think. Depends on how much the higher ups find out about this.”

“Oh don’t worry about that” Willow piped up again, “Nothing in this room is currently being recorded, we really don’t like the way we look on film, it adds ten pounds I swear.” She just smiled benignly, but with steel underlying the voice and smile.

At that point Faith giggled, she could not help it, Willow was doing her “I am the uber witch routine” to the hilt, and it was hard to compare that with Willow in fuzzy slippers and a yellow bathrobe. Xander just shook his head for a moment hiding a smile.

“I see… “ said the General slowly and shrugged, not having the brass know about this was NOT going to upset him too much, he really preferred sanitizing things first. “Well then, what do you want to know?”

Xander took a deep breath and started talking. “What do you need from me and how do you expect me to fit in? And I am going to add Faith here, “pointing to her on the wall “is part of the deal, she comes with and works with me.”

“Now wait a second!” Mitchell spoke up still wincing from the smack down Faith had laid on him. “We are highly skilled and trained before we go out in the field, I don’t really feel comfortable taking two untrained civilians out with us.”

The General nodded “I have to agree, we may need you to look at people and help identify their motives, but we can’t place in the field you are untrained.”

Xander couldn’t hide a smirk and neither could Faith. “Not a problem, you put us through all your training, and if we don’t pass with high enough marks we will leave. I told you it was a partnership or nothing. I think both of us might surprise you.” The solider memories were still rumbling around his head and prompting him with info every so often, and Faith while uneducated was not stupid, and she could probably take any of them in a fight.

“But you still haven’t said exactly what a Perceiver is, or how you would use my…. abilities.” Prompted Xander.

Selmac spoke up, the trio looking at him as the strange echoy voice came out of a human. “Traditionally Perceivers can sense lies and see where the real truth is, they can see the source of any generated effect, they see the true form of anything. In lore illusion magic would not work on them, and they were used as judges for all disputes. We have not had one in many lifetimes, nor have I talked to any other Tok’ra who even remembers knowing one, but they are scattered through our history and lore. The only earth one I know of was called Wodin.”

Daniel tilted his head “You mean the Father of the Norse gods? Odin? But we know the Asgard were the Norse gods. But that just covers Thor and Loki, I don’t think we ever went through the entire Pantheon to find out who was whom.”

Jacob shrugged “I don’t know that is just the name that is in our lore. As for what else they can do I can only guess.”

He fell silent and glanced at Anise and had to bite his tongue, she was fuming so loudly that her face was red and you could see all the stuff she wanted to say. But he turned his head to face the others.

The General nodded “We can check with the Asgard and see what they have to say, but Mr. Harris I have some more questions for you and your…friends.”

Trying to not snicker, Xander nodded, there was really only one question he was worried about. “Ask I will try to answer.”

“How did you get here? And how do you keep leaving and coming? What is a Slayer?” The General was getting a touch plaintive, but then O’Neill had warned him there were going to be days like this.

A deep breath “Demons are real, and some of them have the abilities to make certain things happen. Halfrek an old acquaintance of ours apparently decided Teal’c needed a … friend.” Looking at Teal’c warily hoping he would not blow this. “So she decided to bring me here. The rest is her sense of humor I suppose, but now that I am here, I just can’t pretend to not know. “ Holding up his hand as Sam and Daniel started to explode with the whole ‘demons aren’t real’ arguments he added. “If you have a problem with the idea of a demon, simply regard them as residents of different dimensions that have the ability to interact with ours and have strange abilities to change our perception of reality.” He sighed with relief as he got that out with a straight face. Technically correct, but phrased in such a way maybe the scientists would accept it, and god help them if they ever met a real demon. Xander looked and Teal’c and heaved a sigh of relief. He knew Teal’c had figured out the connection between them, but that was NOT information he wanted anyone else to have, way to risky to both of them.

Teal’c nodded slightly. ~Xander is correct to keep this from them, if anyone knew I could affect his comings and goings, they would attempt to control both of us, especially Anise.~

Xander continued “Slayers are women created to fight specific variations of these demons, lore and myth call them vampires.” Again the room exploded, though Vala was trying hard not to get up and kiss this wonderful agent of mayhem. This was fun.

Selmac “Spoke, you mean she is a Vampire Slayer?” almost choking. “We thought there was only one ever, and she died a long time ago.”

Faith snorted “Not likely old man, one every generation, if one dies, another appears. Talk about a sucky retirement plan. But… we got things covered right now so I can come on this gig with boytoy. After all, not every day I get to meet aliens.”

Everyone blinked as they processed what Faith said and Vala spoke up “Boytoy? Oh I like the way you think girl.” The two of them compared each other slowly and then started to grin. Mitchell and Xander looked at each other and mouthed soft ‘oh shits.’

After that there was a general discussion after his statement and even Daniel and Sam could not argue too much about his presentation of demons, with some questions and clarifications being asked. Apparently the Tok’ra held a lot of the old stories from earth, they had come with the original hosts. Finally people started nodding in agreement, this might just work. At least everyone but Anise who looked ready to spit nails at the room as a whole.

“Well then Mr. Harris, I guess I need to say welcome to SG1 to you and Faith? You do realize we will need to do full background checks and physicals on both of you? And find out your skills.”

Chewing his lip softly Xander nodded “Okay but there are a few assurances I would like. I can refer you to someone in the military you can ask for details about me. Any medical records or blood that is drawn from Faith and myself must be kept on a need to know basis, no trying to figure out how we are what we are. We will not be guinea pigs or lab rats. As for skills, Faith is a fighter like you have never seen. I am a carpenter, and I can read basic Sumerian, Latin, Hebrew, and a few other odd languages you have probably never seen. And Klingon.” A quick flashing grin on the end statement, and you saw Daniel’s eyes light up a bit.

“Well then when can you start? We have a lot of work to get you ready to see or do anything and a ton of paperwork.” Stated the general.

“Um… a week. We have some loose ends to tie up at home. You want to look up Captain Riley Finn and talk to him about Sunnydale. Here is a piece of paper with an email address so you can contract me if needed, as well as his information.”

Xander stood up slowly and Willow bounced her eyes bleeding gray “Well it was nice meeting you all, Xander I will take Faith and myself home, you follow. The rest of you… lighten up, not everyone who finds out your little secret is a bad guy. You need to loosen up and ask questions first.” With a wicked grin that caused Xander to start to try and say something that might stop her, she held out her hand to Faith, who took it, waved her hand saying “Toodles” and disappeared, along with all the clothes of everyone in the room except Xander.

A sigh as Xander looked around at the naked bodies and the shocked faces, “She did say, telling people magic was not real made them persnickety.”

Anise started to scream, as her voice had come back as her clothes left. “THAT WITCH!!!”

“Um.. yeah… told you she was a witch.” Xander shook his head and softly thudded his head on the table as the guards rushed in again, more of them this time with weapons drawn but they all blinked at the naked bodies surrounding them, Sam and Vala getting many double glances. Sam started looking around desperately for something to cover up with, while Vala just kicked back and enjoyed the stares.

“Enjoy the freebie boys, next time it will cost you.” A wicked grin on her face.

Most of the military guys looked embarrassed, thought Teal’c just shrugged nudity was not a huge issue, and in a quick comparison to the people in the, he had nothing to be ashamed of.

Anise was ranting and raving and more than a few men noticed she had a rather nice body, now if the silence spell were permanent she would be pretty.

Wryly thinking ~Faith would have loved this, wonder if Wils is taping?~ Xander just sat and tried to look as non-dangerous as possible, men with guns tended to shoot first and check with officers later.

The chaos ruled for a few more minutes, until blankets were brought and various people scattered to their rooms where they found all their missing clothes neatly folded on their beds. Vala’s had a note laying on top of hers that stated, “Nice threads”. Xander walked with Teal’c back to his room, the large man not worrying about his nudity and purposely ignoring the double takes and a few drooling remarks from passing service women.

They entered Teal’c quarters, and Teal’c went to pull on his clothes that we laid on the bed waiting for him. “Your Witch friend seems to have a short patience with Anise. It took many hours before most of us were ready to do harm to her. Your Witch silenced her within minutes. It was most impressive.”

A soft snort as Xander flopped on the floor “Thanks for not mentioning that you can probably summon me as needed, I just don’t really trust anyone with that knowledge, and am still worried about the fact that you can do it at all.”

Teal’c looked at him and nodded “I understand and approve of your reasoning, there are few I would trust with that power over me. I shall endeavor to prove worthy of that trust.”

A slow considering look “I think you shall. I figure we will be back here in a week, the NORMAL way, expect us topside. And then we shall see what is going to happen. Here is my private email address. The one I gave the uniforms is filtered and protected five ways to Sunday they aren’t never gonna find where I am from that, but this is actually me… so.. use it carefully?”

Teal’c nodded honored by his trust “I will Xander. I look forward to seeing you here again, under your own power.”

A quick grin from Xander as he bounced up, “Me too. Send me home now. Please?”

A dignified nod from Teal’c “Go home Xander.”

A soft pop and Xander disappeared from the room.

~back to Cleveland~

A few minutes earlier Faith and Willow had appeared in the living room, and Willow collapsed with laughter, giggling uncontrollably. Faith looked at her, then the piles of clothing around them. “Red… um… what did you do?”

“Took … their… clothes” she gasped out between peals of laughter. Faith blinked, took a closer look at the clothes laying around and realized they were mostly military and started laughing, quickly ending up on the floor with Willow. Their fit took a few minutes, but finally wiping the tears from streaming eyes. Willow sat up.

“Here help me fold them, I need to send them back…. To their rooms.” She snickered again but quickly folded the clothing piles, focusing on the essence of each one, zapped them back to the respective bed.

Faith recognized the leather get up, and ran and got a note pad, and jotted something on it “Here is the woman’s, the one with a bit of fashion sense.” Willow read the note nodded and it disappeared with the rest.

Sitting on the floor they were still bursting into spontaneous giggles every so often, when they heard a soft “Whompf” from the living room. “Ouch!!! Bloody hell that hurts.” They both rushed into the living room to find Xander trying to crawl out of the chair that he had apparently landed in feet first. He looked up at them who still both had tear tracks on their faces and shook his head “Really Willow, you took all their clothes?”

The two girls looked at each other and promptly went back into hysterical laughter, this time Xander joining them as he told them the reactions of each of the people involved. The reactions of Anise and Vala, by far, being the two most amusing.

Finally when they were able to speak again, they slipped upstairs to Xanders room, Willow soundproofed the room, and locked the door so they could talk without being eavesdropped on.

“Well ladies, what do you think? I know none of them purposefully lied to me in the meeting, but the military is often overruled by higher ups with more power. I suspect the situation might be worse than what we were lead to believe, there is too much fire power at that place for minor problems. But…..” Xander paused for a long moment. “Would it sound funny if I said it feels right? Feels like I might be needed there and not treated as a Zeppo?”

Willow flinched and came over and hugged him tightly “I can never forgive myself for that, only know that I will always be there if you need me. You always have been the brightest of all the Scoobies, your heart shines like none I have ever seen.” Xander hugged her back hard.

Faith looked slightly bewildered at the Zeppo aspect again, but decided this was not something to bring up now. So instead she changed the subject. “Well I am ready to go, and frankly looking forward to the training, been a while since I could go full out and impress people, every one here is a bit too jaded. So…. When are we going to tell the others?”

Everyone went silent then Xander spoke “Tomorrow night, let’s do a small dinner, and invite Buffy, Giles, Robin, Dawn, you two, and ….. Kennedy. You trust her right Willow?” Giving Willow a hard look as he asked that question.

Rather than jumping to answer Willow thought for a moment, “Yeah I do, if I stress to her, how important this is I think we will be just fine. Worst case I could put a geas on people.” She offered hesitantly, this was pushing the borders a little more than she was comfortable.

A frowning Xander looked at her “What is a geas?” Worried about her and magic use for his benefit.

Slowly thinking it out Willow explained. “A geas is something that would prevent them from talking about this to anyone that was not at the table with us. They would have to willingly agree to it before, but it means that only the 8, well 6 of us, would not be able to talk about the Aliens or Cheyenne Mountain to anyone no matter what we wanted to do.” She shrugged wryly “Would be a lot stupid to make you two unable to talk to people about it, since you are going to be working there.”

Xander thought about it for a long moment, then looked at Faith “Well partner in crime, what do you think”

A blink of surprise as she realized he was actually asking her opinion. “I think we should.. either they take it or all they get to know is we left for a job somewhere, I am sure we will get email addresses and they will never know. Sounds fair to me.”

“Good, Andrew is the one I was worried about, there is no way we could ever trust him to not go ballistic about this.”

All three of them sniggered a moment. Willow spoke up “You realize he ever finds out, he will never forgive us.”

Xander laughed “Yeah, but I will take that risk to NOT have to deal with questions ‘bout transporters, and Babylon 5 technology. So… we work on dinner, pass to the word to the other slayers, this is a general where are we going meeting, maybe spring for pizza and movies for them, and we tell the others.”

The other two nodded and headed out to get this done. Each of them was bouncy in their own way.

~life on other planets is real, we aren’t alone!~ Willow wanted to crow and dance, but she settled for kissing Kennedy enthusiastically as she made plans for dinner the next night.

Faith was a bit different ~other worlds, I get to go to other worlds, and be the only Slayer there. Maybe I get to make a difference this time.~ and she hummed a bit as she packed her clothes and necessary stuff.

The last thoughts were Xanders. ~why me? How does this pay back Anya? Do they really need me or am I just another tool to be used and thrown away. Am I right to leave everyone and go there.. but… other planets… life… a chance to be someone… and chance to see what I can do…. Maybe…maybe…~ He slowly started to smile and then started to pack what he needed to start his new life.

The dinner plans had been met with a mixture of confusion and excitement from the others. Confused as to why they were having an actual sit down meal, and excitement because they were having an actual sit down meal.

Andrew and the younger Slayers were pawned off with pizza, ice cream, and videos. Xander winced at what that did to his bank account, but it was necessary to get the others alone with out prying ears.

Dinner was steaks on the grill, another hit to the money Xander had left, and he found himself hoping wryly this gig at least paid, because he was down to about a thousand dollars left. But the grilling gave them the excuse to be outside which made it much harder to eavesdrop, at least common type.

Finally when everyone was eating, Xander stood up, his empty eye socket aching with the stress, but he force a smile and looked at the table. “If I could have everyone’s attention, I have some news that needs I would like to discuss with you.”

He could almost see Buffy and Giles wince, and the first words out of Buffy’s mouth was “Xander, what did you do now? Is this dinner an attempt to butter us up?”

Willow and Faith both blinked and looked at Buffy surprised. Even Giles looked at her with a frown, but did not say anything. Robin, Dawn, and Kennedy simply looked puzzled.

Her comment locked in Xanders’ resolve and his need to get away from here, trying very hard to keep calm he replied. “No… this dinner is to inform you that Faith and I will be leaving, we have been offered jobs and we are going to take them.”

The table froze, but Buffy, angry that she had not been involved, responded spitefully “What did you get her pregnant and you have to go away now?” Stabbing viscously at her steak.

There was a gasp heard around the table, and she looked up realizing she had gone to far with that comment, but before she could respond Faith replied. “No…. but at least if we were having sex, he could get me pregnant, unlike some of your lovers.” Her voice was icy with anger. Xander did not deserve that sort of attitude.

Buffy flinched and paled, opening her mouth to respond, but Giles touched her arm, face hard and shook his head, she subsided realizing her anger had taken a hold again.

“No Faith and I are not having sex, the reason we are leaving is this job, but we will not tell you about it unless you are willing to place yourself under a geas to never speak of this to anyone not at this table. It is your choice. The magic is white as it is purely voluntary, if you choose not to take the geas you will never know for sure where we went just that we are someplace else. This is YOUR choice. There are no consequences, you simply will not be able to write about it, speak about it, or anything else, and if anyone is in hearing range you will not be able to talk about it, even to yourself.” Xander stressed this as he held up a small onyx crystal. “If you choose to take this geas, hold the crystal and say the words Willow has written. It will never be broken until Willow releases it, but note that it applies to her as well, and she can not release it unless I give it back to her. Yes I will be taking this with us, it is your choice.”

He sat down and let the uproar start. The words Willow passed around were specific and simple. ‘I will never communicate any information about the job Xander and Faith are taking outside of people at this table on August 21, 2005.’ The discussion was long, but Dawn just shrugged looking at Xander a bit sadly and smiled.

“Not a problem Xander. Just promise to email regularly?” she asked as she worked on her salad.

“I promise, emails and letters and phone calls if there is stuff I can tell you.” He promised all of them.

Everyone argued with them, Buffy and Giles bringing up lots of what-if scenario’s, but Xander always replied “Willow has a way of reaching us, almost no matter where we are.” They still didn’t know if she could get a hold of them if they were off planet yet or not.

“Well I am not going to do it, I refuse to make some silly promise just to convince you two that I won’t tell anyone your big secret.” Buffy stated, arms crossed across her chest.

Xander shrugged, “Then leave.” No cajoling, no pleading, just the consequence. Everyone froze, Xander usually placated Buffy but he wasn’t doing that this time.

Buffy blinked startled “What you aren’t going to tell me if I don’t take the vow?”

“No… I told you take it or never know, there are no exceptions to this. It is your choice.”

Buffy pouted and looked stern, but Xander was implacable. What people did not realize was this was more for their protection than his. He understood that this military base was high security, and this way even if someone investigated his friends they could not tell them anything about it.

Reluctantly she took the ball and said the words, biting out every one of them. Buffy then passed the ball to Giles.

The ball was passed around the table, and everyone except Xander and Faith stated the vow, when it was done, Willow handed the ball to Xander and he dropped it in his pocket.

“Okay… now for the rest. We are joining a military operation…” at those words the table erupted, anger, disbelief, and worry coating all the various remarks. Xander waited them out. He did not react to any of the comments, not even Buffy’s snide remark of, “What the Initiative wasn’t enough for you the first time around?”

“If you are all quite finished?” He remarked still waiting ~god I sound like Giles more and more, I have got to get away from here.~

Finally they settled down, some of them realizing that neither Willow nor Faith seemed to have a problem with it.

“This operation deals with Aliens, they are real, I have met them. The main reason I am joining is they found out about me because of a W word.” Buffy and Giles both flinched at that, then glared at him. Xander sighed “No, not one I made, one a staff member on this project made, and Halfrek granted, dropping me in their laps. Apparently what ever was done to me on the Hellmouth has enabled me to see the aliens in whatever form they take. They had my fingerprints, my DNA, so I knew it was only a matter of time before they found me, and by extension, the rest of you. After some… negotiations, they will not come looking for me, and Faith and I will join their project. Me, because they want what I can see, and Faith because I need someone with me I can trust at my back.”

Buffy couldn’t stand it anymore “you trust her? And you would not even tell me this with out a stupid vow? You trust Faith more than me, or any of the other slayers? Why would you do that? She tried to kill you.” Anger, spite, and something else were in her voice.

A long pause as everyone froze and looked at Xander, he replied, his voice perfectly calm. “Yes, I trust her to make sure no one tries to kill me, because she has already promised that if the situation arises she will kill me herself. I trust her to watch out for me because it is her best interest as I am the one they really want. So yes, I trust her more than you to put my interests first.”

Just as previously Faith had touched Xanders shoulder, this time he touched her shoulder to reassure her. She relaxed a little at his touch, she knew they still needed to work out their issues, but for now, it was enough.

Giles took off his glasses and rubbed them. “I suppose there is nothing we can say to dissuade you of this choice?”

Shaking his head Xander replied, “I am going because this is a chance to become something that is me, not based off of anyone else. Faith may still change her mind as they primarily want me. But I have already made my decision, this is just to let you know what it is.”

Faith snorted, “Hell, no way am I not going, I get to see aliens and go to other worlds, oh fuck yeah I am doing this.”

Robin, Kennedy, and Dawn all laughed at this, and the mood lightened, leaving only Buffy sulking in anger. Giles smiled a bit, then raised his glass “Well then I propose a toast to Xander and Faith – May the planets they visit never bring them grief.” Everyone except Buffy toasted. Her refusal was noted, but for now it was left un-remarked.

Dinner finished up much lighter, with only Buffy angry and sulking, Xander sighed knowing they had left too much unsaid between them, and as much as he wanted to run away, he couldn’t, he had to deal with it.

“Buffy, would you stay and clean up with me, I would like to talk to you.” He requested quietly, not looking at her, as he started stacking the dishes.

She started to argue, but paused and nodded, and the others quickly drifted away giving them space to talk.

“I know you have been angry a lot lately, and I don’t know why. I have been too full of my own anger and loss to really care, and dealing with the younger slayers has kept me distracted to a certain part. But why are you so mad at me now?”

She paused thinking, Xander had taken the brunt of her anger, she had been working hard to regain a relationship with Dawn, and Willow and she were growing close again, but Xander she had refused to deal with more and more.

Slowly thinking as she talked, doing the mindless cleaning up she answered. “Anger and guilt I think. You lost an eye, the others either are dead and so we forget, or they are fine and so we don’t think of what they suffered. You remind me of what happened to you every time I see you. So I get angry and lash out at you. Then there is Anya. You were the only one who really lost someone at the end, the rest were either barely known strangers or already dead, so all we lost were their markers. But you lost someone you loved. Or once loved. And I can’t do anything about that either. Then now… you are leaving, you are getting away from here and this madness…. And.. “ she paused and looked up at him, frustration and sorrow, mixed with wry understanding that her moods were not fair, but it was still how she felt. “And.. I am left here.”

Xander paused and thought about this for a long moment. “The eye, don’t worry about it, it is a scar, a reminder of why I fight and that I lived when others didn’t. Anya made her choice, I still miss her, but she walked into this with more knowledge than any of us. She was a 1000 years old, she KNEW what could happen and she chose to be there. You don’t have the right to discount her sacrifice. She may not have been heroine material, but she chose to fight, as I have chosen every day. You did not get to chose… but Buffy?” Xander stopped and looked at her, made sure she was paying attention. “Don’t punish others for what you didn’t have…. And now you can choose. You have more options than you think.”

A bitter laugh escaped her “What choice? I am still defined by being a Slayer, I can’t be anything else.” Shoving things into the trash can.

“Do you really think that? I envy you your choices. I am leaving because otherwise they WILL come get me, and I don’t think I will then have a choice. You get to stay, watch Dawn grow into a young lady. Help Willow because the strong stable witch she should be. You can now choose to be the leader of a whole generation of woman who are stronger and more capable than they even realize. Or you can go back to school and become anything you want. Do you really think Giles would stop you? There are more than enough Slayers now to pick up any slack you leaving might create. Or you could become the head of the Council and permanently change everything about how Slayers are treated. You have the world ahead of you. I have to go to a place where I might die on a planet where no one will ever mark my burial spot. I have to go or risk all of you with people I don’t know yet. Buffy the only restrictions on your life now, are the ones you place on it.”

With that Xander picked up the last of the condiments and headed into the house, leaving a very stunned Buffy standing there, looking at what she had thought was a life sentence and suddenly seeing all the possibilities that previously she had been unable to see because of her own blinders.

~Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado~

The General, Colonel Mitchell, Sam, and Daniel were in one of the conference rooms talking about Alexander Harris, and this Faith girl that was coming with him. Teal’c was noticeably absent from the small discussion.

“So people what do you think about this idea of having this Harris and Faith person on the teams.” The General inquired.

“I think it is a bad idea sir. They are not trained in combat, and we could not count on their reactions in a dangerous situation.” Replied Samantha also immediately. She was still steamed from the little disappearing clothes act that had happened last time.

Cameron sat for a moment “Okay, they are unknowns, but they agreed to help, probably more than what they could have done given the display of power they presented. So why not send them through the modified SEAL training, if nothing else, it will send the woman running and make Xander more than willing to stay coddled and protected. That way we can bring him in when we need him and not before. But if they pass, and open up a little bit, we might have two strong additions to the Stargate program.”

The General nodded “What about Teal’c and his reaction to this man. Is this something we need to worry about?” Looking at everyone.

Daniel shrugged “I don’t really think so. I suspect part of it is understanding what it is like to be the outsider here, and Teal’c has not really had anyone to talk to since Jack left, so I suspect he is just trying to balance both needs. Teal’c would never put us at risk and as strange as this sounds I suspect we just had a gift horse dropped in our laps, and maybe we are looking it its mouth a little much.”

Everyone blinked and then snickered a little at that analogy, but they did relax a bit.

“Actually what I am worried about is Faith and Vala. Faith comes across as hell on wheels, and if she really is, and her and Vala become friends. Well… lets just say I don’t think we have seen anything yet.”

The General shrugged “How bad can she be, she is from earth, has never been to other planets, what is the worst she could have seen or done? Though we still need to run a back ground check on her as soon as she gets here. Speaking of that, has anyone contacted Captain Riley Finn yet?”

“Yes Sir, he is due here in a week. The delay was that currently he is in South America, and I had to invoke our own security level just to get anyone to admit he exists. He has not been told anything about why we want to see him.” Colonel Mitchell responded.

“Just to admit that Riley Finn exists? Dang, what were both of these kids up to?” The General picked up the very slim file again. “Says Harris grew up and graduated in Sunnydale, California. Why does that ring a bell somewhere for me.”

Sam tilted her head a moment “Wasn’t that the name of that town in Southern Cal, that was swallowed by a freak earthquake or sinkhole or something like that?”

Everyone else looked blank, and finally the General frowned “Who knows maybe that had something to do with his nonsense about demons and what not. Lets just deal with it when he gets here, because if he is not here in a week I am going after Harris, regardless of who thinks what.” A snarl at the end of that, frustrated with this kid from California.

~3 days later~

~well it is done, everything is packed up and put away, I have all the things I can’t live without. I gave Andrew my Babylon 5 plates, and I wish he wouldn’t kiss me. Everything else is boxed up, so I can send for it, if I get a place to stay, have my favorite weapons with me, so… guess it is time.~ One last look around the room, barren now of any hint of his personality.

Xander picked up the duffle bag and backpack and took a deep breath, then stepped out of the room and went down the stairs. Most everyone was waiting down stairs, Faith was there, looking her normal sultry and deadly self. Xander dropped his stuff in the trunk and turned and looked at everyone. The last few days had been pretty good. Buffy had disappeared into her room for about two hours after their talk, then begged Willow into showing her the catalogs of classes available at the local colleges. Then she and Giles had been locked in a room for about 3 hours. Arguing and talking had been heard, but when both of them came out, Buffy had looked a lot happier, Giles sad and proud at the same time, but over all the way Buffy treated people had improved immensely. She and Xander and Willow spent a few hours at a Starbucks, just talking and remembering and rebuilding the basic friendship that had once been there. It would take a while, but she had promised to email regularly once he had an email and there was hope that they would grow back together were before there had not been any.

“Well looks like Faith is ready to go, and so am I, so I guess this is…. Until we come back for holidays to crash on your couch?” Xander grinned, trying to lighten the moment.

A soft snort from Willow “You had better, and one email a week or I come check up on you.” Grabbing him in a tight hug.

~okay make sure to mention to the General I need to send at least on email a week or my Witch comes looking for me.~ “Noted, just remember to give me to two weeks to get there and get settled in, okay?”

Willow nodded hard, tears welling up in her eyes, as she hugged him one last time. Next was Dawn a flying mass of hair, legs, and arms that ended up in his arms.

“I am going to miss you, who else is going to save me from Andrew and his non-stop sci-fi stuff and take me to get ice cream when everyone else is on a diet??” came her plaintive whine.

Xander hugged her tight “You will find lots of new friends here, school starts soon, and we both know you can handle anything. I expect to be kept up to date on your life via email, okay?”

“Deal, and you tell me…. What you can.. okay?” hopeful look, one last hug. Then Dawn turned and headed into the house, she did not want to see him leave.

“G-man… try to not have too much fun without me around to bug you, okay?” Trying to keep the wistfulness out of his voice.

Giles pulled himself up straight and walked over to Xander “Rest assured young man I shall miss you every moment you are gone, and I shall even miss your infernal monikers you feel obligated to attach to people. Be well, and call if you need anything, even people to simply avenge you, we will be there.” Giles pulled Xander into a rough, brief hug, then turned to Faith. “Good luck, I hope you find a place that will value your skills and talents, for we did not. For that I apologize.” Giles touched her shoulder gently then walked to Willow.

Faith was touched “Thanks, I will try.”

That left Buffy. They both smiled at each other softly. “We getting better Buff?” Xander asked softly as she walked towards him.

“Yeah… and eventually, my best Xander shaped friend will be my friend again. Write often okay?”

“Will do, you keep up on your class work, and don’t scare Dawn’s boyfriends too much.” They hugged, tightly then she stepped back and looked at Faith.

“Take care of him… and yourself Faith, I expect to see both of you back for most holidays.”

Faith smiled a bit surprised by this warmth but she nodded. “I will B. Rather like having him around myself.”

“So we ready Faith?” Xander asked. The good-byes had been said, now he just wanted to move before it became to hard.

“You bet boytoy, lets go.” Faith slid into the car, Xander turned to wave to everyone, then got in the car, started it up. He took a deep breath and started driving. Waving once out the window but not allowing himself to look back.

“Well Faith, you sure about this, very last chance. In two days we will be at Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, giving ourselves up to the military, who are not my favorite people.” Xander asked, not looking at her just driving.

A soft snort “You trying to get rid of me already? Nah.. thanks though. But… I want to do this, I want to prove to myself.. and you that well that I have changed, and this way maybe with a new group of people I can start fresh. I don’t think they will find that I did time, Angel and Kate wiped me pretty clean I think so other than that I don’t think I exist. My last name is not my real one, or at least not the one the in system, and my fingerprints don’t exist anymore… I don’t think. If they do.. oh well. Not much I can do about it. So.. lets see what happens, and we go from there.. k?” She flashed a grin at him hoping for a chance to become friends.

“K… so lets go blow some minds in Colorado.” Xander laughed, turned the music up high, and they headed towards their future.

Major Riley Finn looked at the orders in his hands. It had been a long time since he saw anyone more that fast. The orders had been delivered to him in South America and less than 12 hours later he was on a jeep to the nearest airbase, and from there on a flight back to the US. Then he was called into his commanding officers office, the door was shut and he had one of the stranger conversations of his career.

His command unit was small and almost autonomous in their methods to deal with HST’s that they encountered, and generally if they said to leave one alone, it was harmless, it was left alone. So Riley had been very curious what could drag him out of his current hot spot back to the US and not include his team. He found out immediately after he shut the door to his commanders office.

“Major, what do you know about an Alexander Harris?” barked Colonel Ridge.

Riley blinked, “Also known as Xander Harris?” he questioned, just to make sure they were talking about the same person.

“Yes, apparently you met him in Sunnydale while you were stationed there, what do you know about him?”

Riley shifted into parade rest smoothly as he thought “Sir Xander Harris was an associate of Buffy Summers, who you know about. He supported her activities in fighting the HST’s.” He ignored the scoff, and his superior’s muttered ‘vampires, call them vampires’ and continued. “He did not have any powers or abilities that I was aware of, in fact came across as the goof of the group. I personally did not really like him, and I know he could barely tolerate me, at first, but eventually we became…” he paused trying to figure out the right word. “We were two soldiers fighting in the same battle. Never really friends, but in the end I did respect him, even if I never really grew close to him.”

The commander tilted his head looking at him “Why did you respect him if you never really liked him?”

“Sir, he was not the Slayer, he was not a witch, or vampire or anything. He was just a human, without even the drugs we were given as advantages. He had no special training or weapons, but he still showed up and fought, he never once walked away and left anyone needing him. I can respect that.”

“Hmmm… “ His superior nodded, and handed him some papers. “Here is your papers to get to Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. Ask to speak to General Hank Landry or Lt. Colonel Mitchell.

You are to respond to all of their questions regarding Alexander Harris, including the existence of things that go bump in the night. They have clearance to hear this.”

Riley nodded and saluted “Sir, yes sir.” He picked up his papers and turned and exited the office, his mind racing furiously ~what the fuck has Xander Harris gotten himself into now?~

His superior leaned back a little, and picked up a cigarette and lit it. “How interesting.”

Riley spent the ride to Colorado, wondering what this meant for the rest of the group. He would always admire Buffy, but was more than happy being married to Sam. She was strong enough not to need him, but needed him anyhow. And he needed her. Finally he shrugged ~I will deal with it when I get there, stressing it before hand is a waste of effort~ And with that Riley did what any good solider did, he fell asleep.

He woke up when they landed at a nearby airbase, and loaded his bag into the jeep, then they headed to the facility. Riley reviewed in his head what he knew about this place. ~NORAD headquarters… and that is about it. So probably twice as big as most people think, all underground. He took in the scenery as they drove, then the mountain as they got close. ~hmm.. one obvious entry, probably mined and has lots of other nasty tricks built all around it. Would not want to try and storm this place~ Riley grabbed his stuff hopped out of the jeep, waved to the driver and then walked up to the security guard.

“Major Riley Finn, reporting as ordered, I am to report to General Landry and Lt. Colonel Mitchell.” He stated and then watched the guard check his name against a list, check his id, check the name again, then get on the radio and call down letting people know he was there. Then guards came up and escorted him to an elevator and they went down. ~long fucking way down, and I thought the initiative was bad.. shit~ Riley kept his mouth shut and just paid attention to the uniforms, and saw patches he had never seen before, and a few people looked at him closely as he was escorted to a conference room. Inside was a General and a Lt. Colonel. Riley snapped to attention, “Major Riley Finn reporting as ordered sir.”

“At ease Major, please take a seat.” The general replied pointing to one of the empty chairs around the table. Riley obeyed, sitting at attention looking at them trying to keep his face blank.

“We were told you could give us some information. So we would like to know everything you can tell us about Alexander Harris of Sunnydale, and a woman named Faith.”

Riley paled “Faith, she’s free? Oh shit.”

The General and Colonel looked at each other and then smiled a little “Oh we definitely want to know everything, who is this woman, why is she with Harris, and why is he classified.”

Riley took a deep breath, “Well first you have to understand and accept that vampires are real, as are demons.” He let the explosion of disbelief was over him, and stood. “Permission to disrobe sir?”

The General blinked then nodded. Riley removed his uniform shirt, and then his undershirt, and started pointing. “This scar was from vampires, this one a Fr’anli demon, this one from a Listhar demon.” He kept going, most of his torso was covered with various scars, some still not fully healed. “I have been doing this for about 3-4 years. Xander has been doing this since he was 15.” His words and quiet assurance rang true with the General and Mitchell.

“oh shit, what have we stumbled into?” Mitchell asked quietly as Riley re-dressed.

The General looked at him confused “So what this Harris person told us was correct, he was sent here by a demon?”

Riley looked confused “Anya sent him here?”

Now the General and the Colonel looked confused “No, a Halfrek did, I thought Anya was his ex-fiancée.”

Riley nodded in understanding “Yeah Anya was a vengeance demon but got engaged to Xander, I think Halfrek was a friend of hers. So Halfrek sent him here? Damn wonder what he did to deserve this type of punishment, military is not his favorite.”

Mitchell commented wryly “We noticed. So demons are real, and can transport people into secure bases, at the use of the term wish?”

Riley flinched a little, he may not have had direct interactions with that word, but the stories Buffy and the rest of the gang had told him, had created a healthy respect.

“Well weirder things have happened, trust me. I would advise, take most of what he says with a grain of salt, but never doubt where his heart is, he would give his life for his friends and never even stop to ask why me.” Riley shrugged and sat down, not really sure what else he could say.

“So tell us about Harris’s ability to see the truth.” Ordered the General looking down at his notes.

“Huh?” Was Riley’s comment, blinking at the General absolutely confused about what he was asking.

The General looked up at Riley and saw the blank look on his face. “you don’t know about his Perceiver abilities?”

“General, I have no idea what you are talking about. The Xander I knew was a barely high school graduate, helped blow up said high school, and worked in construction. Everyone in the group was stronger, faster, or more powerful that he was. The only thing he had the rest of us didn’t was the ability to care enough to move mountains. And in the end I think even that was dying slowly. So I don’t really understand the question, but remember I last saw him about 2 years ago. So given their lives anything and everything could have happened.” Riley shrugged, but quietly chewed on the inside of his cheek, ~what is going on here, Xander… I would have thought they would have asked about Faith, she is the scary one~

There was a knock at the door, and a sergeant stuck her head in. “Sir, Harris and Faith are upstairs at the gate.”

The General looked surprised “They made good time I did not expect them here so soon. Why don’t we go up and meet them Major Finn?” The General said as he stood up and compiled his files again.

Taking a deep breath Riley stood, seeing Xander was not much of a big deal, but seeing Faith, that was much harder. ~last time I actually saw her body, Buffy was in it, and she was in Buffy’s all in all that was not a good, and she was not all there. Maybe… maybe things have changed, especially if Xander is traveling with her. Oh god I hope she doesn’t touch me.~ He shuddered a bit, still feeling a mix of emotions, the incident with Buffy/Faith had been like a reverse rape and still made him queasy to think about it. He straightened his uniform almost compulsively and then followed the General and Colonel Mitchell out the door to the elevator.

~2 days after they left Cleveland~

“Okay if I NEVER see another Big Gulp again, it will be to soon.” Xander remarked as he looked at the back seat of the car, littered with empty remnants of convenience stores everywhere.

“Hell yes, I am even starting to crave a salad and maybe some ice tea. Oh, god I am craving healthy food. I must be sick. Are we almost there? I have got to go pee in the worst way.” Muttered Faith.

They had been driving non-stop for two days, just wanting to get there and get it over with. Faith doing most of the driving at night, since Xander still did not trust his night driving without his other eye.

“Well I think we are about 30 minutes from the place, at least according to Mapquest, so can you hold it that long or do you want me to pull over to the side of the road?” Honestly asking, both of them had gotten to know each other quite well over the last two days, and Xander was beginning to suspect the bad-girl attitude, was a show. But he was still working on getting to know her, but as they had traveled he realized his gut reaction of Faith as a good person to be at his back was right on the money.

A long suffering sigh came from Faith, “Okay.. I can live that long, but I swear ANYONE tries to stop me from hitting the head when I get there, they are going to have their head stuffed up their ass.” Snarling slightly as she looked back out the window.

Xander wisely refrained from snickering but did push down a bit heavier on the gas trying to get a few more miles an hour out of it.

Soon enough they had pulled up to the gate and a solider waved them to the parking area, Xander obediently parked the car and got out. He looked at Faith and they both shrugged, grabbed their backpack and bags out of the car and pulling on the backpack, they walked to the guard.

“May I help you?” The guard inquired looking over them carefully.

“Harris and Faith to see General Landry and Colonel Mitchell.” Responded Xander, trying to not smirk as Faith clamped her jaw shut trying to wait another moment.

“Let me check sir.” The guard went to his shack, picked up the phone and talked for a moment. He set the phone down and walked back over to them “They will be here in a few minutes, if you would please wait over there.” The guard pointed to a fenced in area with two benches in it.

Faith spoke up. “I need to go to the bathroom now. Where is it?” The tension in her voice was unmistakable, and guard took an involuntary step back.

“I am sorry ma’am but we have no facilities up here, you will need to wait until the General shows up.”

At this Faith lost the control she had been holding onto by her fingernails. Dropping the bag in her hand she stalked toward the guard. “I have been holding it for over an hour, I need to go NOW!” Death was imminent in her voice, and the guard, put his hand on his pistol as he backed up.

“Ma’am sorry ma’am, but I don’t even have a port-a-potty out here, and the first facility is down 2 stories.” Paling as she stalked towards him.

Faith snarled, the need to go making her cramp. “Do you have any tissues or napkins?” The question was a snarl and a death threat all at once.

“Ma’am yes ma’am.” The solider responded and whipped around to the shack grabbing a box of Kleenex and thrusting them at her almost panicked.

Faith grabbed them, shucked off her backpack, throwing it at Xander. “Wait here.” Was snarled at both of them and she stalked back to where the car was parked and a small stand of high grass.

“Umm.. she really isn’t suppose to leave the waiting area sir.” Ventured the guard.

“Are you going to tell her that?” Asked Xander turning and looking at him with a dark eye.

“Hell no sir, she is about the scariest thing I have ever seen, I don’t ever want her mad at me.” The soldiers’ voice was fervent as they both turned to see Faith squat next to the car, only her head visible.

As they waited trying to not look like they were watching her, a group of three men approached. The General, Colonel, and Riley.

“Where is Faith? I was told she was here also.” Asked the General looking around.

His voice startled Xander who had been busy trying to NOT pay attention to the vicinity Faith was at, and he whirled seeing the three men. “Riley! So they dragged you up here too?” Riley just stared at Xander.

“Xander, what the hell happened to your eye?” A concerned Riley asked.

Xander started to reply but both of their attention was dragged away by the General’s conversation.

“Sir she is over there by the car, sir.” Replied the guard pointing.

The General frowned, “No one is suppose to leave the area once they check in you know that.” The guard started to stammer a reply, but Xander broke in.

“She had to go pee, and she had to go now, be nice to the poor kid, a tired, cranky slayer who has been holding it for the last hour and half is enough to scare anyone or anything.”

The General started to growl, but this time Riley broke in. “Sir, take my word for it, when a slayer is cranky you simply hand them chocolate and get the hell out of the way.”

About this time a much relieved Faith walked up and looked at the gathered group “Boy you guys in suits must be desperate if you are gathering to watch someone take a leak.” Ignoring the stammered denials and protestations she tossed the box of Kleenex back to the guard. “Thanks, I needed that.” She turned to grin at the men, then saw Riley and her smile faded, then she took a deep breath and walked towards him.

Riley took a half step back as Faith approached him, but he waited to see what she would do. “Riley… I never apologized for what I did, and I am sorry. I had reasons as twisted as they were, but I am trying hard to start over, and that includes apologizing. So… I am sorry.” The words rushed out in one breath, but once she said them Faith felt better. Even if he did not forgive her, she was at least asking and that was more than she had done before.

Riley blinked and looked at her, really looked. This Faith did not have as much anger bottled up inside, she looked healthy and relaxed, and she even seemed like she knew how to laugh in humor not cruelty. Riley nodded “Okay…. Let me think about it… this is a bit of a surprise and I have been stewing on that for a while, but… thanks for the apology.” The Colonel and General simply looked confused by that exchange, but Xander smiled in pride.

Faith beamed at Riley then headed back to Xander and grabbed her two bags. Xander shook his head and tossed off a perfect salute to the General. “Harris and Faith reporting for duty sir!”

Riley just shook his head and snickered softly “The end of the world has arrived.” Watching the General and Colonel try to figure out what to do with these two was going to be amusing and scary. All in all he was damn glad he was headed back to South America, the repercussions might not reach that far, if he was lucky.

Chapter 2

It had been 3 weeks since Faith and Harris checked in, and Landry was beginning to wonder if his last bit of peace and quiet before they returned was gone. After giving them a through medical check-up, of which most of the tests were finally done running from the samples taken, they had been shipped off to a special training facility for SEAL and special programs. All of the recruits here were sent there, but most of them did not have notes in their files to try and wash them out or intimidate them with the physical and emotional requirements. Hank Landry had basically told the officer to put them through a close version of SEAL training, and maybe that would eliminate the possibility of them ever going through the gate except as support staff. He had mentioned it to Finn before the Major had gone back to his assigned duty post, and the Major had broken down and laughed at him.

“Sir, Faith will find the entire thing fun and want to know if she can go back. Xander… hell if I know, but I suspect he will surprise you, he is much more than what he seems. If you get a chance, I would love to see their evaluations after the fact.” With that Riley had saluted and headed back to his job in South America.

Well training was over, and they were due back in a day. From the last conversation with the CO of that training camp, Hank knew that Finn had been much more accurate in his guess, and that his own plan had failed most spectacularly. General Landry sat behind his desk looking at the two files in front of him. One was labeled “Alexander Harris, aka Xander” the other was labeled simply “Faith”. Nothing anyone had done had been able to get her last name out of her, and when the fingerprints and DNA scan came up negative they had given up. The General recalled one weird aspect during the last time they tried to get a last name out of her, after telling her the fingerprint scan came up empty, Xander had given her a strange look. Faith had replied, “What can I say, Angel with Wolfram and Hart do good work.” That accompanied with a wry grin had made Xander snort, but he said nothing. They had followed up on the Wolfram and Hart comment, and verified it was a lawyer firm, but the branch in California no longer existed. Angel was too vague for them to come up with anything, so for the most part they gave that up.

Landry shook his head remembering and slowly opened the files. He was not sure if he really wanted to know what they said.

(see the files separately loaded) Faith
Xander

An hour later Landry didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. He had thought he was getting two civilians who wouldn’t know how to handle a life or death situation, instead he had two people who put some of the highly trained men and women to shame in their skills.

Landry put down the files, and picked up his phone “Please have Mitchell report to me.”

He dropped the receiver back down and stared at the star map on his wall. “Next time Jack tells me something sarcastic about this job requiring me to be a ring master, counselor, mediator, and magician all at the same time. I am going to believe him and not think he is just being snide.” He sat there staring, wondering how he was going to incorporate two more people into SGC, and he really didn’t want to think about Vala right now, she was just a migraine on top of a headache. His sympathy was firmly on Dr. Jackson’s side on this one. How was he going to use Harris? Hank Landry winced for a moment and sighed. “Great, this job is getting to me already. I am thinking of people in terms of tools, and I am talking to myself out loud… just great.”

His intercom went off startling him, “Yes?’

“General it’s Mitchell, I am with Teal’c right now working out, you wanted to see me?” Came Colonel Mitchell’s voice over the intercom.

“Why don’t both of you come, might as well… ah hell call a conference for the SG1 team at 1330 hours, get Carter and Jackson too.”

“Do you want to include Vala, sir?”

“No!” Barked the General. Then more calmly “Ah.. no let her find this out by scuttlebutt like the rest of the base will.” A soft sigh from Landry.

A pause, “Umm… okay. Will do sir, Cameron out.” The intercom clicked off with a burst of static.

“Walter?” Landry called out.

“Yes sir?” Replied Walter walking into the room.

“Please make.. 5 copies of these, and no passing them out or mentioning their contents to other people, these files are going to be hot enough reading soon enough.” Handing Walter the files for Faith and Harris.

“Yes Sir.” Walter walked out and towards the copier flipping through the files, soon you heard soft snickering over the “shunsh, shunsh” of the copier making copies. Fighting to keep a straight face a few minutes later Walter handed the originals and the copies over to Landry. “Here you go sir.”

The General looked up at the suspiciously straight face of Walter as he handed him the copies. Landry just looked at him and sighed. “Would you please ask Dr. Lam to attend the briefing at 1330 and ask her to bring the medical files on Harris and Faith with her.”

“Yes sir.” Walter turned and walked out and wondered how to start the betting pool on the first sparring match between Teal’c and Faith. This was going to be fun.

Dr. Carolyn Lam took the message with ill grace, and stalked around her office snarling out loud, though there was no one else in the room. She finished collecting her data on the two newest members of SGC. “I can’t believe he sent her to SEAL training, hell I can’t believe he sent either of them. I have worked with those men, they are going to chew up that poor girl and spit her out. Damn him, I am going to have her in my med center for the next month by the time she gets back. This is not a bloody movie with Demi Moore.” She just fumed as she got everything together, and then headed towards the meeting room in a huff, still very annoyed. “And that young man, there is no way he is in shape enough to pull that sort of load, everyone else on this base has been in the military for years and gone through training, and they have both eyes!” Service personnel looked at her warily as she stalked down the hall still muttering to out loud, not noticing the people moving out of her way and giving her lots of room.

Dr. Lam and Colonel Carter arrived at the same time. Teal’c, Daniel, and Colonel Mitchell were already there and seated. Moments later General Landry walked in and took a seat.

“I have copies of the evaluation files done by the SEALs' on Harris and Faith. I wanted to review them as a group, but first I wanted Dr. Lam to go over the results of the DNA scans and tests that were run on Harris and Faith prior to sending them to this evaluation session.”

Dr. Lam snorted “Evaluation session my ass, it was a flat out attempt to grind them up and spit them out and convince them that they should stay behind. I can’t believe you sent that girl there, hell even Sam never went through that training.” Nodding to Carter semi-apologetically as she stood up with her files in her hands. “Well I hope you will be happy when you have a confused and terrified young woman, with no military experience, return here after trained men have run her into the ground.” She snarled opening her files. She looked up and caught a funny look on her fathers’ face; it was something between choking and laughing. “What?”

“Nothing Dr. Lam, we will discuss the results after you present your information.” Replied the General, blinking rapidly as he fought with himself.

“I see.” She stated repressively, then she started presenting her information. “Alexander Harris, aka Xander. EEG is odd, maybe. I know that does not sound definitive, but occasionally there would be sudden changes in his EEG activity. Nothing we can track down, and his personality or ability to answer questions does not change at all. There is no sign of him being or ever having been a host for any of the alien races we are aware of. So far he has not volunteered any information as to the change in his readings but I believe he might know something. Genetics, doing a full detail took forever because of a few anomalies. All of us are different genetically, but he has some genetic patterns that look like they are taken from either fish or sharks. It makes no sense, but I can’t see that they are active or doing any changes to his system. Other than that, he is a slightly out of shape young man. Moderately intelligent, probably more intelligent that he gives himself credit for. Non-smoker, shows signs of small levels of alcohol abuse, but that is expected in any male his age. His eye.” She took a breath, this wound and what it implied bugged her. “The eye was crushed completely and then removed by surgeons, as there was nothing left to save. His optical nerves were cauterized to promote healing of the eye socket, the orbital bone was fractured in three places, and at the same time hair line fractures of his skull were caused. Most likely it they are due to the grip of the fingers that forced the thumb into his eye.” Several people in the room winced. “All in all he is as healthy as I could expect. At least he was when he left my care.” Another glare at the General, but this time he did not react at all.

“Faith, no other name.” She paused and looked at them. “She is probably the most confusing. Scars and breaks from early childhood on imply abuse or life on the streets or both. Currently she is a healthy young woman with one large scar on her abdomen, most likely from a knife. EEG is standard, however her DNA is not.” She took a deep breath. “Most of us have flawed or mutated DNA. Where there is no healthy back up base pair, we suffer from that flaw encoded on that set. An example of a broken gene strand is why men can be color blind, while women almost never are, the back up copy would have been on the other leg of the X chromosome that they are missing. If you look at DNA strands you can see that certain people are pre-disposed to cancers or other diseases. All of us have some sort of flaw in our DNA; there while there is normally a back up set on the other chromosome often it is flawed or broken also. Faith has a healthy back up set for every flawed piece of DNA. There are no pre-dispositions, no mutated sections that will override the healthy base pair that we can see. I suppose it is technically possible, but it is as if she was optimized to be as physically perfect as possible. That explains her beauty, her physical shape, and probably the worst she had to suffer is acne, because that tends to be environmental. Teeth seem to be the only thing not perfect, and that is more because we have different standards than the body as to what teeth should look like. The other odd thing is she seems to have proteins that I have never seen active in a human before. DNA base pairs create amino acids, which create proteins. She has extremely complex proteins that are not familiar to me, and I have absolutely no idea what they will do. Of course, since I will probably be able to do an autopsy after the SEAL’s are done with her, I might find out.” Glaring at the General.

Dr. Lam sat down and looked at the group assimilating the information. There were various states of shock and Sam’s mind was whirling as she filtered the idea DNA with back up pieces through her head.

Then suddenly Sam spoke. “You realize we can never tell the Tok’ra or anyone else about the DNA aspect, right?”

Everyone looked at her quizzically, then Daniel and Teal’c both realized it at the same time, but Daniel spoke up. “Because there would be a war to own her as a host, even the most ethical Tok’ra could be tempted by the idea that there was a host with inherent genetic flaws. The symbiote only protects, it can not always repair genetic based problems.”

Sam nodded “It would be best if that was locked down and never discussed, I would not even tell her. Just say she is disgustingly healthy.”

There was a silence in the room; Landry broke it “Done. Dr. Lam, please remove all notes you may have entered about her DNA, someday in the future we can study it, but I would prefer to not put a target on her back.”

Dr. Lam nodded “Not a problem, but I would not swear as to how the symbiotes would react to these new proteins, it might make her immune or very susceptible.” and re-collated her notes and files.

“Thank you. Now on to the next step, I have back the evaluations of Harris and Faith, I would like you to look over them and let me know what you think.” He handed out the copies of the two files to everyone (

(see the files separately loaded) Faith , Xander) and then sat back and watched the faces and body language of the people reading the files, mentally evaluating each one.

Daniel Jackson: took the file, blinked as he read Faith’s results, with a soft muttered “oh my”, then he opened Xanders file and his jaw dropped and there was a “holy shit” as he kept reading.

Teal’c: Read the file on Faith and a small smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. Read Xanders file and the smile grew, nodding his head, closing the folder, and folding both hands, sat at the ready.

Cameron Mitchell: Flipped through Faiths fast, then paused went back and read the results again more slowly, face growing pale. Then hesitatingly picked up Xanders file and read it slowly, jaw dropping about the time he got to the Fire Arms training, then blinking and you could see him re-arranging team components.

Samantha Carter: She read Xanders first and shook her head in disbelief, re-reading the swimming times twice, eyes narrowing. Then picked up Faiths, and her jaw dropped, with a murmured “holy shit” as she read the hand-to-hand reports.

Carolyn Lam: First she picked up Xanders file and read through it, comparing his swim times to the minimum, then she read his shooting skills, and opened up her medical files going back and forth between the two, frown deepening on her forehead. Then slowly she picked up Faith’s file and opened it, first she went white and her jaw dropped, then she compared Faith’s medical file to the SEAL one, and slowly she turned red, a nice bright embarrassed red. She then closed all the files and slowly, still blushing turned to face the General.

The General smiled serenely at his daughter. “Any comments you would like to make?’

Her face very red Dr. Lam spoke slowly “I think I now have a very good idea as to what those proteins do, but it would take years of testing to even begin to replicate them, and I don’t know what patterns in her DNA helped to create those proteins, or if we could use them for anyone else. Obviou..” She paused and looked at the file again. “I think..” she restated “That the proteins probably affect how fast and strong she is, but we are talking years of research to understand the ramifications of proteins this complex. Not to mention mapping out the DNA sections each protein fragment is tied to.”

“I see Dr. Lam, I will keep that under advisement, but for now lets still keep all of this under wraps, especially until we have talked with her about this.” His face was absolutely straight except for the twitch at the corner of his mouth. “Are we all done people? As you can see both of them blew away what I was expecting. Which was two out of their elements civilians, who after that little dose of reality would have been happy sitting in the nice safe base. Well instead we have one fighter who is virtually untouchable, and another with unexpected skills and abilities. So how are we going to fit them into our current structures?”

“I think they should stay together, obviously they work well together, and probably know how each other thinks. If we mix them with Teal’c as a supplementary team for which ever SG group needs the help or their abilities for that mission, we might end up with a strong flexible team.” Spoke Cameron, thinking, and flipping back and forth through the files.

Landry nodded slowly, but looked at Colonel Carter as she shifted. “I think they are obviously physically talented, but I would like to do an assessment of their knowledge, skills, and personalities, before we start putting anything in cement.” She commented looking down. “While fighters are great, we need to know what else they can do prior to doing any field ops with them.”

“Agreed, Dr. Carter will you please work with Dr. Lam in setting that up, would be nice to know what other surprises they have up their sleeves.” Decided General Landry.

“I would like to throw in a few symbols and things, just to see if they are familiar at all with them.” Spoke up Daniel still flipping through the files.

“Okay everyone, you have your orders.” The General nodded at them as they stood up and headed out. Dr. Lam refusing to look at him as she left, still blushing occasionally, and now more than ready to keep her opinions to herself next time.

“Teal’c would you wait a moment please, I would like to talk to you.”

Teal’c arched a brow and nodded his head, stopping and waiting for the rest to leave.

Daniel left the room and was immediately accosted by Vala. “Well what did he say, did they pass? Is the chaos maker and his slayer coming back here?” She was almost bouncing with excitement, hair in two pigtails, granting her a disquieting innocent aura.

Daniel blinked a little taken back. “Umm…yes, mostly likely they are. Why are you so interested?” Confused, Vala normally cared about no one but herself.

A bright grin light up Vala’s face. “I like her, and he is sexy and might be good in bed, what is not to be excited about?” One last grin as she turned and strode on down the hall, humming to herself, bouncing her pony tails back and forth.

Daniel shuddered, then firmly ordered his mind to not go down that path. “I have to remember to warn Xander about Vala…. Not sure if I should warn Faith or just start running if I see them together.” He shook his head and headed down the hall.

In the conference room, Landry addressed Teal’c. “Please sit down Teal’c I just want to talk to you for a moment.” Waving his hand at a chair. Teal’c nodded and took a seat all of his attention on the General.

“Teal’c I know that you have been the subject of a great deal of scrutiny since Harris dropped in on us, be it fair or not. However the reports I have read on you, and your service here at the SGC have always been glowing, not to mention the work you are doing right now in dealing with the Jaffa. So I would like to know, personally, what do you think of this situation and this Harris person.”

Teal’c blinked, a bit surprised. He had not really gotten to know General Hank Landry the way he had known General Hammond, and so he was not expecting this, but he took it at face value and answered. “Xander was put here I believe through no desire of his own, we pointed out he had skills we desperately need, and he has since made the decision to leave his friends and family behind to help us. The character that speaks of, when we have not exactly been welcoming him with open arms, is impressive. I believe is he truly a warrior who will never break his code of honor even if it means his life. I suspect the… request I made would not have allowed for anything or anyone else to answer it. I look forward to fighting at his side.”

It was a long speech for Teal’c and the General looked at him in surprise. “I see, so you have no reservations about this.”

Teal’c shook his head. “No sir, I think they may be exactly what we need to fight the Ori and the remaining Goa’uld.”

“hmmm…” The General nodded “I am beginning to think so too Teal’c, thank you for your insight.”

“General.” Teal’c stood up and left.

Landry sat there in the room for a long moment, listening to the quiet. These two were definitely not the run of the mill people, but maybe they were made up of the same stuff that made Daniel, Teal’c, and Sam so good. They had a mix of loyalty, perseverance, and the un-definable quality that made some people heroes. Well he would know soon enough, for now he had other duties to tend to, whether Cameron knew it or not, these two were about to become his problem. With a decidedly evil grin Hank Landry walked out of the room and back to work.

Chapter 3

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 when 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.

~flashback~

“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.

~end flashback~

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.

“Deal!”

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.

Chapter 4

The alarm went off and Xander opened his eyes and sighed. He had not really been asleep, just trying to deny that he needed to get up. Hitting the alarm off, he headed to the shower. ~I hate tests, I suck at tests, I only graduated high school because of Willow, god what if I fail these tests, am I gone or imprisoned. God I hate tests~ covered the refrain that went through his head all through the shower, breakfast, and up until he and Faith walked into the room. Four people were standing there, Colonel’s Carter and Mitchell, Dr. Lam, and General Landry.

Trying to keep control of his nerves Xander walked up and took a seat in of the two chairs at the table, on which there was a pile of pencils and papers. Faith followed him closely and took the other seat, Xander knew from how white her knuckles were that she was as nervous as he was.

Landry walked towards them a little and shook his head. “Relax, this is not a pass/fail situation, just since we know so little about both of you, we need some tools for evaluation and a base line to know when you are improving, just do your best on these. Some are basic and you will recognize them, others we made up due to the unique nature of this job, it is just an evaluation not a final call. As far as I am concerned as long as you can both read and write, you are in.” He smiled a little at them, having seen the fear and nervousness as they walked in. He was glad when he saw some of it bleed away as they listened to him. “Since some of the tests are timed, we will do those now while you are fresh, we have cokes and coffee if you need it, so when Colonel Carter says go, grab the one labeled ASVAB and begin.”

Xander and Faith both nodded, found the paper packet labeled ASVAB, which made Xander feel better, he knew this test. Faith just was nervous, and knew a few of her secrets were going to come out.

Five hours later, when the ASVAB and Standford-Binet test had been taken, they took a break for lunch. They ate the lunch that was delivered to them in the room, both of them lost in their own minds, which were full of worry and confusion. After lunch there were two more tests, but these seemed different. The first was called the Myers-Brigg and was kinda easy just lots of situational questions, the last one was obviously not standard, but for both of them was by far the most interesting.

The last test was printed out and had symbols and patterns, they were suppose to decipher, hieroglyphics and cuneiform. Xander was surprised he recognized a lot of them and even could read some of the lines. There was a section with tactical plans on them that he blew through easily, laying out the plans of attack, weapons to be used, and personnel needed. The strangest was a set of symbols he had never seen before always in patterns of 7, that he had to identify the constants for, that was different, but fun. On one of them he drew an 8th symbol after it, to complete the pattern that was there.

Finally they were all done, hours of testing, and they were both almost as exhausted as after a day of SEAL training. Faith was white and worried, Xander just tired.

Mitchell came in. “Okay guys, all done, lets go gets some grub, then we can meet and discuss your results, this time with you here to give us input.” Both of them nodded wearily and followed to the cafeteria, where they both ate only a little, mostly picking at their food.

“Really it is okay, trust me, we just need to have an idea of where you guys are. Come on grab some chocolate and lets go see what the tests said.” Shaking his head a little at their worry, he led the very quiet duo to a conference room, where Teal’c, Landry, Carter, and Lam were all waiting with the results of the tests in their hands. Lam smile up at both of them while they took a seat. Landry took control of the meeting.

“Well it looks like you two really are full of surprises, so this is the final part, we are going to discuss your test results, what the Stargate program is, and where and what part you two will have it in.” He could have sounded scary but he had a slight smile on his face and was looking at them kindly, so they both relaxed a little. “First things first, here are your files from the training you received, I thought maybe you both might like to look and see what they said, as if I remember correctly you could have been perfect and they would make you feel like you barely passed.” Handing them each a file.

Xander flipped his open and started to read and his jaw dropped. All through the training, occasionally he had gotten a surprised ‘not bad’ comment or look, but he had always thought it was just that he had done better than they had expected from a civilian, never dreaming he had blown through records. He almost choked when he read the bottom comment, and something hard and ugly inside of him loosened up. Turning he saw the same look of astonishment from Faith.

“Look Xan, they think I am good, they would want me, and not as a runner up to the person they really want.” Xander flinched a little at the reminder of her treatment, and realized it still hurt she had been considered only second best. The people at the table caught it to, but said nothing just watching the two.

“Yeah… apparently I was better than I thought also, and look what they said about my shooting.” Both of them talked back and forth for a few minutes, pointing out different aspects of each other files, getting more and more bouncy by the moment, until they were brought back to the situation at hand by Landry clearing this throat.

Guiltily they closed their files and focused on the General holding papers and waited to hear what he was going to say.

“This told us quite a bit, but first let me read you the ASVAB scores for each of you, they are broken up by percentile, which means that out of all the people who took the test your score was better than that percentage. So if you get an 85 percentile it means you scored better than 85% of people who took it okay?” Looking at both of them seriously, the both nodded, Faith chewing on her lip a little.

ASVAB Scores - EIGHT ASVAB TEST AREAS
General Science
A 25-item test measuring knowledge of life science, earth and space science, and physical science
X- 67 percentile, F - 53

Arithmetic Reasoning
A 30-item test measuring ability to solve basic arithmetic word problems
X 90 percentile, F - 65

Word Knowledge
A 35-item test measuring ability to understand the meaning of words through synonyms
X - 95. F – 90

Paragraph Comprehension
A 15-item test measuring ability to obtain information from written material
X - 98, F-89

Mathematics Knowledge
A 25-item test measuring knowledge of mathematical concepts and applications
X - 67, F-53

Electronics Information
A 20-item test measuring knowledge of electrical current, circuits, devices, and electronic systems
X-75, F-33

Auto and Shop Information
A 25-item test measuring knowledge of automotive maintenance and repair, and wood and metal shop practices
X-98, F-65

Mechanical Comprehension
A 25-item test measuring knowledge of the principles of mechanical devices, structural support, and properties of materials
X-90, F-54

After looking at there scores for a moment Xander looked surprised at how well he had done, but Faith was crushed, though she tried hard to look as if she was indifferent to scores. Colonel Carter spoke. “Faith, I know you think you did poorly, but the next test you took gave us more information. The ASVAB is based off of what you learned in school. Xander I bet you took shop didn’t you?” Looking at Xander who nodded his head. “So it is more a what you have learned test, rather than an intelligence test. You both also took the Standford-Binet IQ test and that was quite revealing about both of you.”

“What? That I’m a moron?” Asked Faith trying desperately to regain her bad girl attitude, if they didn’t want her fine, the SEALS did, trying not to show how badly it hurt to know she had failed.

“No on the contrary, it shows both of you are very intelligent. Faith your score was 132 and Xander yours was 126. Meaning you are both very intelligent, not genius level, but smarter that me.” Answered Mitchell “Just don’t ask Carter or Jackson their scores, they make the rest of us look like trained monkeys.” Both Carter and Jackson glared at him but you could see the humor in their eyes.

“Not monkeys Mitchell, trained chimps.” Replied Jackson with a saccharine sweet smile.

“Sorry apparently I am a trained chimp, which is higher than a monkey?” Looking a little confused at Jackson.

“Never mind I take it back you are a trained monkey.” Teased Jackson. The teasing made both Xander and Faith feel better, and helped reinforce that the IQ points weren’t a main factor.

“Oh.” Faith replied relaxing a little and looking at Xander. “So why the big difference in the scores on this ASVAB thingy.”

Carter asked smiling at them “Basically I think it shows that Xander graduated High School and you didn’t.”

Faith blushed and looked down, Xander on the other hand looked shocked “Faith, how old were you when you dropped in our laps?” Watching her carefully.

“Almost 16.” She replied almost inaudibly.

“Oh crap… Faith I am so sorry, when I get ahold of Giles I am going to kill him, I can’t believe we did that. Faith, god I am sorry.” Xander torn between almost babbling, with his mind flashing back to where she lived and how they had treated her, and filled with rage for what four thoughtless self centered people did to a young girl, and he cringed.

“Excuse me, what is going on?” Asked Landry confused by the by-play between them.

Xander looked at Faith for permission, she nodded and he began to speak. “Faith dropped into our laps in 1998, she came across as bad, mean, and dangerous to know.” A sad sort of smile was directed at Faith. “We did not treat her well being stupid teenagers and caught up in our own problems with a friend and we never asked questions or tried to find out. She was staying at a place I would not keep a pet rat in, and we let her, NONE of us asked her to come live in our homes. Not that mine was much better.” Bitterness laced his voice at what they had done, as well as gave indications of his home life. “All of us assumed she 17 or 18 and out of high school. I was 17, and even more stupid than I thought I was.” Xander explained bitterly. (note previously I said 22, Xander would be 24 right now, my fault). “We never checked on her or made sure she went to school or anything. God Faith, I am going to kill Giles.” Then he froze, and looked like he was about to be sick. “Faith… I raped you. You were a child.” Horror filled his voice.

Faith snorted. “Bullshit, you never knew what hit you, I screwed you and threw you out faster than you could handle. Trust me Xander, I know what rape was, and that wasn’t it. Faith looked up and the brass and shrugged a lot embarrassed, “It happened it is in the past, and regardless of my age I treated him worse than he ever treated me, it is a none issue.”

The panel looked at each other, but it was Teal’c who spoke. “Faith when you were at this place, had you been living by yourself, supporting yourself, fighting for the lives of others?”

She nodded “Yeah for about six months at that point. I did what needed to be done.” Not sure what else to say.

Teal’c nodded “She was an adult by any cultures standards at that point, and I don’t think any of us in this room doubt she could have prevented anyone from doing anything to her she did not want. It is in the past and for the two of them to deal with.” With that said he went silent.

Sam shrugged and smiled a bit. “We aren’t police and since you obviously have no problem with that aspect of your past there is no reason for us to pry. Now as to your scores.” With that Sam closed the subject for discussion for anyone else in the room, though Xander looked like he was not going to forgive himself for a while. “What we thought was that you hadn’t finished school

Faith, and that explains your scores a lot, in fact it makes your comprehension and word knowledge even more impressive, but it will require us to add a caveat to your employment with us.”

Faith froze a little, watching them warily. Sam laughed a little “It is not that bad, you are obviously smart, so I think earning your GED in the first year here will not be that bad, lord knows between Daniel and myself we should be able to get you ready to ace any college entrance exam you might someday want to take.”

“You… you guys would help me get my GED and don’t think less of me for not going to school?” Blinking totally stunned at the offer.

Landry shrugged. “Faith while I still have a hard time believing or understanding the information Finn provided us, much less what sort of life you must have had, I don’t’ think anyone here doubts you had other claims on your time that prevented you from following a traditional schooling path. So we will help you get up to speed as long as you work for it.”

“That is great.” Faith smiled, a true honest smile, and you heard all the men in the room take a breath as her face lit up.

Xander grinned wanly, still promising to kill Giles when he had a chance, but now he was on that list also. Unable to do anything at the moment he just looked at the people. “So what about the rest of the tests?”

Sam grinned “Well I found the Myers-Briggs very interesting, it is basically a personality test that tells us how you probably view the world. You Xander are what we call an ESTP type.” She laughed at all the blank looks around the room. “Basically this means you have a very practical approach to any problem, you don’t really care about the theories behind them, just how to solve them. You learn best by doing it, and you are very focused on the now, as opposed to the future.”

Faith laughed “They got you Xan to a tee. Would love to see B take this, what do you think?” Grinning at him teasing a bit, trying to make him feel better, and already excited by the idea of getting her GED and that she was not stupid.

“You on the other hand Faith are a ENFJ. That is someone driven by emotions. You tend to be a catalyst in any group you are in, you are loyal, responsive to praise and criticism, you have the seeds in you to be an inspiring leader.” Xander smiled at Faith. He had known that, it was just interesting to see other validate it also.

“But in the long run these also are just tools and ideas for us to figure out how you respond to problems and work in a group setting, nothing is ever carved in stone. Not even death.” Getting a small jibe in at Daniel, but the SGC people were surprised with Faith and Xander broke up laughing.

“Yeah tell us about it, you really don’t want us to compare dying and coming back, after a while it gets to be that you think even death won’t be restful.” Xander commented snickering. Daniel’s eyes lit up and he pointed to Xander.

“See, he gets it, death is just a step, not my fault I keep dying.” Looking to Xander for support.

Xander shrugged “Don’t look at me, I haven’t been doing the dying I just keeping doing the resurrecting.” The entire table blinked and various mouths started to open, then snapped shut as everyone decided they really didn’t want to know quite yet. Maybe later.

Daniel cleared his throat, looking at the final sheaf of papers in his hand. “Well my addition to the test was last, and I am… astonished. No amazed. Flabbergasted? Maybe stunned, no still not right.” Lost in thought trying to find the right word, Sam elbowed him in the ribs, bringing him back to the topic at hand. “Ow! Oh yeah, well lets just say I was not expecting this. So can you explain Xander why you know Sumerian, Greek, Latin, a bit of Hebrew, Hieroglyphics, and basic cuneiform? That and how the hell and why the hell did you add another figure to the set of 7 symbols?”

Xander shrugged “It was the rest of the pattern, you had not closed it, so I added the last pattern, wasn’t that what I was suppose to do?”

Everyone up there just looked at him stunned, Xander started feeling more and more uneasy. When Daniel spoke “Mine.. he is mine, no one else gets him first until he has looked at EVERY gate code we have. Is that understood.” The rest of the people just nodded looking at Xander. Daniel shook himself and turned his attention to Faith. “You Faith you at least recognize most of them, and seem to have certain word sets that trigger you faster than others, and all of them are words relating to ‘danger’, ‘enemy’, ‘world’ and strangely ‘female.” All of them were looking at the two very confused. “These are not normal skills for college graduates much less two young adults with no formal training.”

Xander and Faith looked at each other and started snickering. “Giles will never let us live it down, if he finds out that we learned something.” Xander remarked still laughing.

“Giles? Giles who, you have mentioned him a few times.” Daniel interrupted a bit bewildered “And how did you get exposure to all these languages?”

A shrug from both of them. “Rupert Giles, a friend of ours. He was big in the museum scene for a while. And we were looking for prophecies about apocalypse.” Xander replied. Daniel frowned the name sounded familiar.

Landry frowned at both of them. “Your answers are no more helpful than they were the first time we questioned you even if they have a few more syllables.”

A snort of humor from Xander “Look once we are fully here, signed in and what not, I will answer everything I can, leaving out only names to protect people okay?”

Mitchell shrugged looking at the General who nodded. “Sounds good to us, so… “ He got up and picked a stack of papers. “Here is the pile, non-disclosure agreements, life insurance, W-2’s, wage information, benefits, etc… Sign everything and tomorrow we will have a big friendly get together and everyone will spill their sides of the story.”

Faith and Xander had both stopped listening at the “wage information” statement and were tearing through the piles, finding the paper and looking at it intensely. It was identical for both. (yes this is really what a E-5 makes in their first year, I pulled the info from the dod)

Pay Grade: E-5 – Mission Specialist
Base Rate: 1759.50 per Month
Hazard Pay: 190.00 per Month
Imminent Danger Pay: 225.00 per Month
Total Monthly Pay: 2174.50
One time clothing allowance – 1300.00

Both jaws dropped. “Paid… we are actually going to get paid. I can buy clothes, and my own stuff and not have to st…borrow things?” Faith was in shock, she had been living off of generosity or picking vamp pockets for so long that this seemed like a fortune.

“I know it is not much, but most food and your living expenses are covered here on the base, so it is not too bad. You get the clothing allowance to cover the purchase of the uniforms you will need to wear.” Spoke up Mitchell, but he did not expect the happy faces that turned on him.

“you don’t understand, we have never gotten paid for this before, it has always been do this and try to get enough money via a part time job, or construction for me, just to make ends met. This… wow.” Xander explained, both of them just blown away.

“Well then get everything signed, and then enjoy your evening, tomorrow we get to rock your world.” Replied the General with a slight smile. “After that, training and figuring out where you fit in and how.”

Xander and Faith both nodded eagerly filling out paper work, until Faith got to the W-2 where she froze. “Umm.. guys.. I don’t have a social security number. Even if I gave you my last name, I still don’t know what it was, and frankly I don’t think that person exists in the system anymore. I was erased pretty thoroughly.”

A long look was exchanged between the officers and the General shrugged. “Not really a bit deal, we have had to set up SSN’s for other people, Teal’c mainly so there is a precedent, we will do the same for you. Question, what do you want your last name to be?”

Faith sat stunned for a long time, then started to think. ~a chance for me to decide who I want to be, to choose my own last name that has nothing to do with my deadbeat parents, something I get to choose~ Thinking furiously. ~what do I want, I just don’t know, I.. I need to think about this~ “General, may I give you a name tomorrow, I need to think about this.”

“That would be fine, it will take me at least that long to get the paperwork in order. Well then, you will have your allowance checks by Friday, and you already have your rooms. Harris your computer will be delivered tomorrow while we are in our meeting, please let your friends know you are fine?” Just a hint of worry in his voice, he really did not want the red head visiting anytime in the near future. “Then we will see you at 0830 hours in this conference room for the unveiling of truths? Have a good evening.”

“Yes Sir. Thank you sir.” Replied Xander without thinking, just stunned by everything. They both finished all the paperwork, except Faith’s W-2, which she took with her to think about. They said their good-byes and headed back to their racks, only speaking when they hit her door. “Faith, how can you ever forgive me?” Looking truly miserable as he looked at her.

She shook her head “Xander it was my idea, and the only part I regret, is that I didn’t let you stay. We are home Xander, a place where we fit, and where we can stay.” She looked at him all the excitement and fear, joy and worry having left her exhausted but strangely calm.

A hint of a smile crossed his face, “Ya know, I think we did.” Looking at her still feeling guilty for 7 years ago.

Impulsively she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips softly. “Thank you for asking me, thank you for regretting something that I have cherished, and thank you for being a friend… you will never know how much all of it has meant.” And she turned and slipped into her room.

Xander turned and wandered into his room. ~she kissed me, that beautiful, powerful woman kissed me! And I think she truly is not mad at me for that incident. Damn! Maybe someday I can make love to her for real, after I kill Giles~ Xander fell asleep with a dopey grin on his face.

Chapter 5

The alarm went off and Xanders eyes sprang open. ~we passed we are in… now just it’s show and tell time~ He bounced out of bed, ignoring everything to dance around the room in sheer unadulterated joy. Slowly the joy faded remembering his talk to come with Giles and his own residual guilt. ~okay maybe I won’t kill him, but damn am I going to heap a shit load of guilt on his head, he was the adult she should have protected her.~ He firmly ignored the small voice that whispered in his ear ~I loved her, I should have protected her~

Washing, dressing, and walking to the cafeteria were all done humming with on again off again joy, bouncing back and forth between being ecstatic to be here, and worry about how to apologize enough to Faith. The only option he had been able to come up with was to never let her get hurt because of his inaction again, and pray that was enough.

Walking into the cafeteria he saw here there, working her way through a breakfast that would make most football players stuffed. She looked up and saw him and grinned, a smile that let him know he was truly forgiven.

~I am still going to hurt Giles though~ was his he thought as he grabbed food and sat down.

“Hiya gorgeous, got room for me?” Grinning at her as he sat down, eating, but mostly he watched her and thought about what was ahead.

“Always boytoy, what would I do with out you around to keep me honest.” Faith winked at him, as she finished off the last piece of sausage on her plate.

He shrugged “Rule the world?” Snickering a bit as she thought about it.

“Nah.. too much work, would rather be waited on, working is too much effort, after all I might break a nail or something.” They both laughed; Faith had never shied away from any hard work, at least any work requiring physical effort.

“So wanna talk about what to say to the suits in our show and tell? I think they are going to tell the truth, but…. While I might be beginning to trust them, I don’t trust their superiors, and I don’t want to tell them about the other slayers. How about we don’t mention the whole potentials no more thing, and just leave it with you, Buffy, and Spike to close the Hellmouth. They will live without knowing the exact details. Giles can fend for himself, and we never mention what Dawn use to be. Anya is fine, I just don’t want other groups hunting down the girls for their abilities.” He talked quickly and low, making sure no one was around to hear them

Faith looked at her plate for a long moment, chewing, then looked up. “Yeah.. best bet, everything but the other active girls. How we going to prove this whole vamp thingy, you know they don’t really wanna believe.”

He nodded eating also, but he had been thinking about this aspect. “And Willow, I really don’t even want to mention the whole destroy the world thing. I was thinking about this before we left, and asked Willow to keep one on had for a while about a week or so after three weeks were up, so she should be ready to bring one to us? Sides’ I kinda also want her to have a contact number if something does happen, that way she might not go psycho.”

“K, you got it boytoy, we keep mum on others, just tell them about B. No last names right?”

“Hell no… except for Giles, still annoyed at him.” Xander growled down at his food, aware at least some of his anger at Giles was actually anger at himself.

“Eh… works for me.” She polished off the rest of the food on her plate then stood, arching her back and exposing her taunt stomach for all to see. The noise level dropped as various people watched her stretch appreciatively.

“Exhibitionist.” Muttered Xander, trying to not grin, even as he was trying even harder to not to want to touch that taunt stomach.

“Yep… that me.” Completely unconcerned, dropping off her tray and waiting for him, then they headed down the corridor together.

Teal’c was waiting for them but the rest had not gotten there yet, so Xander took advantage of the opportunity. “Teal’c I never got a chance to say thank you for not explaining the odd ability to call me you have, and you really haven’t met Faith. Faith this is the man who I was talking with prior to showing up in your shower.”

Teal’c and Faith looked at each other weighing and focusing. “You are indeed fortunate, Xander, if you were in a shower with such a fine warrior female.”

Xander choked and Faith started to laugh. Teal’c just looked at them confused, for she was a fine warrior and a good choice for another warrior like Xander. “She would make a strong mate Xander.”

That set Faith off onto another set peel of giggles that had her on the floor. Xander was torn between agreeing with Teal’c and laughing his ass off at the idea of Faith wanting him, so he settled for just looking at Teal’c with a dumbfounded look.

This is how the others found them, Faith on the floor giggling and Xander sitting in a chair looking at Teal’c with a look that all of them recognized from when Teal’c was first there and said something imminently logical to him, but that totally confounded everyone else.

Daniel looked at the three of them and sighed, “So what exactly did Teal’c say?”

Xander just blushed and turned red, Faith giggled all the harder, so Daniel turned to Teal’c with a look, that told him to spill it.

Teal’c shrugged. “I simply pointed out the Faith would be a good mate for Xander as she is a warrior of great skill.”

Sam’s mouth twitched at the phrasing and she glanced at Faith who was trying hard to stop giggling. “At least you are a ‘warrior of great skill’; usually I get the ‘soft pretty blonde suitable for breeding’ comment from the aliens I meet.”

That comment made Faith laugh more, turn to look at Sam and then really start laughing. “Colonel Carter, no offense, but you would never strike me as soft. I might call you brilliant, stubborn, and stunning maybe. But I just can’t see you as a broodmare under any circumstances.”

That made Sam smile, then they were both laughing while all the men stood there with uncomfortable looks on their faces

Landry cleared his throat “If we could all sit down.” Gesturing to the table. Everyone took a seat, Faith wiping the tears from her eyes.

“We will go first, as you already know about the Gou’ald. Nine years ago, Dr. Jackson here discovered how to make something called a Chappi’a work to travel from this planet to other planets. We call it the StarGate. Currently our mission is to explore, meet other cultures, and provide the first line of defense for any race with unfriendly intentions towards us.” He firmly ignored the snickers and muttered comments of “unfriendly my ass, try genocidal intents” and continued on with this explanation. “In our exploration we ran into a race called the Gou’ald, they are snake like parasites that can take over and control a human, and as far as we know the human can not resist.” Both Faith and Xander winced at that, looking at each other, and Xander made another mental note to talk to Willow. “A few months ago, they were mostly defeated, and now are only scattered and much less powerful than they were, though they are still a threat as we know there are some currently living on earth, and we have not found them all yet. In addition we have run into another race that is just as worrisome.”

Daniel and Teal’c both nodded. And Daniel spoke up. “What do you know about ascended beings?”

Faith looked blank, but Xander frowned (assuming he has general knowledge of what went on in the Angel series) “I have an ex girlfriend who ascended, if by that you mean died and became a Powers that Be.”

Faith looked at him, then grinned, “Oh you mean Cordy? Yeah well she came back to life too.”

Now it was Daniels turn to look blank but Sam snickered “Well now you know you weren’t the only person to ascend and come back.”

“Well obviously, after all we have met Orlin, but what is a Powers that Be?” Faith gave Sam a dirty look, which Sam only chuckled at, before looking at Xander.

Mitchell interrupted “Wait you have one ex who ascended, another who was a demon?”

Xander shook his head “That is nothing; I had one try to eat me, another try to suck the life out of me… I really don’t do well with demon females.” The annoyance level in his voice made most of the men snicker, even though they were still confused by the idea of demons.

“As to what a PTB is, hell if I know, glowly swirly beings with power that meddle in people lives.” He shrugged. “Not like I ever was one to be able to tell you.”

“Oh no that would be Daniel.” snarked Sam grinning at Daniel.

“Ah.. I see…no not really, you went all glowly and came back? Ummm.. why?” Asked Xander, confused by it. “I mean I know Cordy came back, but I thought that was because she couldn’t not help, but then she died again.”

Landry saw Daniel and Sam getting ready to get into the discussion about ascension and broke in “This is a topic for another time, for now Daniel please continue.”

Daniel shook off the questions he wanted to ask, noting them down to pursue at a later point, and continued his explanation. “I know I explained some of this previously, but we have recently found out there are two groups of ascended, one which has a policy of non-interference and one that thrives on having people under its sway. This second group is called the Ori and they are rabid in their attempts to convert. They are willing to destroy people, cities, and even planets if everyone does not accept their gods. The Ori. They send out ‘missionaries’ called priors who are not of the live and let live agenda belief. We are trying to come up with a viable response to them right now.”

Faith and Xander exchanged looks “So we are talking priests with a real bad attitude problem correct?”

Daniel looked at the others and shrugged “Essentially.”

Xander just sighed “What is it with me and priests? No offense Teal’c but I had really hoped you had exaggerated this part.”

Everyone on the SGC side looked a little confused, staring at Xander. He sighed and pointed to the patch covering his eye. “A priest working for the First Evil was the one who put his thumb through my eye.” There were various winces in reaction to that image.

Daniel frowned looking down “Mostly we travel to stars different planets and try to find new technology to help protect earth… maybe you should tell us your story, as it seems like we are missing an awful lot of the subtext.”

Everyone focused on Xander, and he swallowed and resolutely not looking at Faith, he started out with the edited version of the truth they were willing to tell. “The town I grew up in always had a high death rate, people disappeared all the time, but no one noticed, you just moved on. My sophomore year this blonde came to school, she was beautiful, and like any other hormonal 15 year old, I fell head over heels.” Smiling wryly to himself, lost in the memories for a moment. “Being said stupid teenager, I followed her and overheard her in the library talking to the librarian about vampires. Come to find out they were real and she was the Slayer. The Slayer is a girl chosen once in every generation to be gifted with mystical power to slay vampires. I found out the hard way how to do it, when one of my best friends from kindergarten was turned, and I was the one who put the stake through his chest and watched him turn to dust. Willow and I decided that one girl she could not fight alone, so breaking all the rules, this tradition the Slayer had help. Over time Willow became a powerful witch, and I helped out where ever I could. I was just me.” Xander shrugged again, not looking at the people listening to his story, but aware of Faith’s hand on his leg, under the table, touching, giving him support.

“When she was 16 the girl died, I did CPR and resurrected her, but she was dead for long enough to call a new Slayer. When that Slayer died Faith was called.” Nodding at Faith absently. “We kept fighting, a werewolf worked with us for a while, and we fought. Demons, vampires, robots, all the things drawn to the Hellmouth we lived on top of. My senior year at graduation we blew up the high school to destroy a demon that would have …” Xander paused looking at them “Lets just say it would not have been of the good.” He took another deep breath. “We kept fighting, a Hell God showed up in town and did damage, extreme amounts of damage both physical and emotional. To stop her The Slayer jumped into a dimensional vortex and died. We did not know how to function with out her and believing” he stopped and shuddered taking another deep breath. “Believing her to be in hell we cast a spell and resurrected her again, this time after she had been dead for three months. We were wrong, she had not been in hell, but heaven and we ripped her out. It was rocky road for a long time, but still we fought. Then the First Evil came… “ Finally focusing on the people listening he saw all the levels of disbelief and confusion. “Imagine the embodiment of evil, you know that that little voice that makes you want to hurt people, to do something cruel just because? Well imagine that incarnate. It showed up to try and open the hell mouth. We fought, and fought, and eventually at great sacrifice including my ex-fiancée’s life, we won. The Hellmouth closed and took with it the town of Sunnydale. Since then we’ve relocated and still we fight. But since there were two slayers, Faith chose to come with me, and the other stayed to fight.”

Xander sighed, he had not lied, but still there was so much he had not told. He focused on the look of disbelief on the faces and waited for the barrage of questions.

Sam was first out of the gate “That is not possible magic, demons, vampires, none of it is real, I read about Sunnydale, it was a freak natural sink hole that appeared.” Frowning at them confused, how could such intelligent people believe in such nonsense?

A twist to his lips “Abracadabra. Showtime Willow. Could you please bring a vampire to where I am?” Xander spoke out loud, and Mitchell paled.

“Ah shit is she coming here?” The general and Sam looking confused. But Teal’c stood up against the wall, wishing he could carry weapons while on base.

“Yeah I set this up with her prior to leaving, I thought you might need real proof even after Riley spoke to you, but if you can see about getting the records on a program called The Initiative and the experiments Maggie Walsh did, that should give you the proof you need. Most of the records were destroyed but some should still be there.” Xander shrugged, scientific types always needed hard proof, and a reminder of powerful friends was not a bad thing either, he really did not want to ‘disappear’ on some unknown planet.

There was a soft pop and a red headed woman they all recognized from last time appeared with a terrified young man bound at her feet, all of the SGCs members rose outraged, Xander and Faith just sat there unmoved, though Faith wrinkled her nose as the demon presence.

“What the hell is going on around here? One I am REALLY tired of having people pop into my secure base, two why the hell do you have that young man tied up like that release him at ONCE!” General Landry was all but screaming.

“I brought a vamp, Xander said you might need proof so I brought one.” Piped up Willow brightly. “Good thing too I was starting to get worried and was thinking about coming looking for him.” With a warning tone in her voice, looking at the General, eyes starting to bleed grey.

Landry blanched. But then her eyes were green again; she all but skipped over to Xander, put a stake in his hand and kissed his cheek. “I am glad you are okay. You too Faith.” With another quick smile at the Slayer.

“Glad to see you Wills, General, I wanted her to have a contact number that she could call, so she doesn’t have to um.. pop in if she is worried about us?”

The General visibly fumed, but pulled out a business card and wrote a number on it. “If they go too long with out contact call this number and we can give you an update.”

“Coolies, thanks Gen. Well I was in the middle of something, so toodles.” She waved and then disappeared, leaving a room of outraged, confused military personnel looking at the young man weeping piteously on the floor, bound tightly hand and foot.

Xander listened to the uproar for a moment sharing a rolling eye look with Faith then spoke up. “Guys.. hey GUYS!!”

Sam and Daniel quit arguing about who was going to release the poor lad, Teal’c was still against the wall looking like he wanted a weapon badly, Cameron was just trying to decide whether to crack up laughing or strangle them, but the General looked like he was on the edge of having a stroke.

Landry turned and glared at Xander, who actually flinched. “Please tell your ‘friends’ they are NOT allowed to pop in unannounced onto secure military bases, and WHAT is the meaning of bringing this young man here!!!”

Clearing his throat a little uncomfortably Xander responded. “Who in here knows how to take a pulse or check for a heart beat?” Completely ignoring the General’s question. Carter, Mitchell, and Jackson all raised their hands, and Xander shrugged. “Would one of you carefully go check his pulse?”

Looking at each other now really confused, Mitchell walked over to the young man. “Please don’t hurt me, I’ll do what ever you want, just let me go, please?” The man begged, looking at everyone in the room beseechingly, Xander and Faith the only ones completely unmoved.

“I’m sure it is just a misunderstanding, you will be let go soon.” Mitchell soothed getting near the young man and placing his hand on his neck, and then froze. The skin was cold and there was no pulse beating in that neck, he turned to look at the others, when the vampire lunged forward, face shifting to fangs and ridged brow, aiming for Mitchell’s neck. Faster than anyone could react Faith was there, the stake Willow had handed Xander in her hand, and she had the vamp by the hair, holding him back, restraining him from attacking.

“HOLY SHIT!” Mitchell swore, leaping backwards, looking at the creature in front of him with horror.

“I’ll kill you all, I will drink you dry you will fill me with food, then I will kill everyone here.” The vampire hissed out, struggling against Faith’s hold, all of his attention on the food he could smell so close.

“Knock, knock, ya forgettin’ somthin?” Faith inquired, rapping the stake on his head. The vampire turned looking up at her then hissed in horror.

“Slayer…” and he began to fight even all the harder. Being newly turned, and tied up very efficiently Faith held him without much effort waiting for orders, watching the others in the room.

The room was silent except for the vampire and slowly they turned to look at Xander still sitting in the chair waiting. “Only Teal’c took me seriously when I said she would come with a vamp. I have not lied to you about the existence of anything. Vampires replicate easily and so finding one for you was not difficult. They are real, deadly, and have no drop of humanity in them. When Faith shoves that stake into its heart, it will crumble to dust. The person they were is dead. Demons are real magic is real vampires are REAL.”

Xander stood up during that last sentence looking all of them dead on. “I have fought these things since I was 15 years old and lived, most don’t. Faith is a Slayer, she is made to kill these, but now you have impressed upon us that you have greater need of our skills, and for now there is someone else to protect us against what goes bump in the night. I speak only from experience when I say there are creatures out there that mean us harm. So decide now, do we stay or do you not want to accept these facts about us. It is your choice.”

Only Faith knew Xander well enough to recognize how tense he was, and she worried, ~I really don’t wanna leave, but if they kick us out, I go with him~

The SGC personnel were silent, stunned, looking at the vampire Faith held easily, and Sam inched forward, touching his neck, and drawing back with a soft hiss of surprise as what Mitchell had felt was confirmed. “I… I never believed, I thought they were just stories, or maybe.” glancing at Daniel “corruptions of events involving aliens, it never occurred to me that they might be true.” Backing away from the vampire slowly, never taking her eyes off of it.

Daniel swallowed slowly. “So all of the stories and tales are true?”

Xander snorted “From what I have learned and had explained to me, repeatedly, most fairy tales have literal historical bases. We personally have run into one or two of the original catalysts for some of those stories.”

Daniel’s eyes lit up as he nodded from Daniel “You personally have met the? Then I assume you will be able to help me figure out which stories are based on the magical world, and which are based on alien intervention, and perhaps we can cross reference with alien stories and writings.” His mind slowly taking over and overriding the atavistic fear the vampire caused in all of them.

“Sure, just remember what Agent K said ‘A *person* is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.’, most people don’t want to know and can’t handle knowing this is real.” With a wry smile arching a brow at them he added. “Including people who deal with aliens on a daily basis.”

Only Landry got the joke, and he started to laugh “Very well Harris, point taken. What do we do with that though?” Pointing at the vampire who was still fighting Faiths’ hold on him.

Xander shrugged. “Faith?” Before he finished saying her name, the stake was in the heart, and you hear the room start to protest, then the stake was out and dust was drifting to the floor. “Call facilities maintenance?”

Everyone was shocked silent, they had heard but not really comprehended. Teal’c was the one to break the silence “Xander and SlayerFaith you are indeed great warriors, and it would be my extreme pleasure to fight by your side.”

Sam and Daniel looked surprised and looked at Teal’c who just stood there and smiled with a very satisfied look smile.

Chapter 6

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.

Chapter 7

Faith and Teal’c stood looking at each other, the background noise fading away quickly as each became the others entire world. Then Faith moved; Xander was aware of the unconscious gasp that arose from the spectators as they saw her speed. Mentally he cataloged it ~about ¾ of full slayer speed, about perfect for this audience, note to self, she needs to focus on her surroundings more, lots of weapons around here to use if this was a real fight~ his solider prompting his thoughts. Xander still didn’t realize how much of the solider was merging with him as a familiar environment helped to re-solidify the memories, habits, and thoughts of another persons’ lifetime. Xander was unaware of all of this, simply watching his Slayer move.

Faith focused on getting Teal’c down, she moved sweeping the staff up, looking like she was going in for a head shot, then back down at his knees. Teal’c went down hard, but was rolling as soon as he hit the mats, coming back with a swing at Faith’s legs. She jumped up and over the swinging staff, her own staff in her hands moving, down, hitting Teal’c across the back. A muffled ‘oof’ came from him, but he rolled with the blow, coming up swinging.

The audience was silent, few had seen this level of sparring before, and watching the small frame of Faith, especially compared to Teal’c, keep up and more than match him was astonishing. Xander just smiled watching her, having no doubt as to the outcome, regardless of Teal’c being an alien, he just didn’t compare to a master vampire.

Faster, slap, crack, thud, sounds reverberating off the walls, then Teal’c was diving on the ground to avoid a blow, he tried to come up, but there was a staff at his throat, and a smiling Faith standing over him, breathing a bit hard. “You’re dead.” Faith was smiling at him with a happy grin. Teal’c looked up at her with a raised eyebrow. “Indeed, I would have been. Congratulations SlayerFaith, you are a fine warrior.”

The room went wild and Cameron stood there in shock. “Holy Shit Xander! She cleaned the floor with him. Her time was… my god… 1 minute 45 seconds. Holy fucking shit.” He just stood there blinking in absolute surprise.

Xander snickered “That she did. Wait… you said a minute 45, damn I won.” Xander grinned thinking a few extra dollars wouldn’t hurt, watching Faith stride towards him as Mitchell dealt with bets, collecting and paying out money. “Hiya.. have fun?” Knowing full well what the answer to that question was.

“Oh hell yea… that was a blast, hardest part was not going for the heart kill strikes, so many openings, but something I need to get out of the habit of, from the feeling I’ve gotten from these guys,” Waving her hand around to encompass the whole room “killing is something they do only as last resort.” Her breathing was back under control and she just looked happy.

Mitchell walked over shaking his head and handing Xander a wad of money “Here you go, Xander, remind me to never bet against you two. Just damn.” He was grinning and obviously not mad, holding his own bunch of money.

Xander looked down at what he had been handed and almost choked “Sir, there is a few hundred here. That can’t be right.” He was very confused and surprised.

A soft snort from Cameron “Try closer to 800, hell everyone wanted in on betting Faith would not take him down in under 2 minutes, I was only betting she would win.” Flashing a quick grin at Teal’c “No offense, but Xander was way too relaxed for me to even think she might lose, I always go with that type of calm confidence, usually means they know something I don’t.”

Teal’c smiled slightly and nodded his head. “There is no offense ColonelMitchell, SlayerFaith is a fine warrior and I would be willing to spar with her at any time.” His voice rich and deep, you could sense there was no shame in Faith having beaten him.

Xander blinked he had been staring at the money, completely blown away by the amount in his hand, but that brought him back to the real world. “Oh… yeah.. um… about that?” He looked around, Sam and Daniel were headed their way, but most everyone was headed out, talking about the fight. Vala waved and winked at him and slipped out, before he could say anything, causing a slight frown of confusion, but nothing to worry about at the moment. “Um... Can you close the door behind the last people, we wanted to show you something, something we didn’t really want as public knowledge.”

Mitchell glanced at Sam and Daniel, shrugged, and went to the door, shutting it firmly after the last airmen left. He headed back and looked at the two of them expectantly.

“Teal’c you willing to do one more sparring match with Faith? It’ll be quick.” A funny wry smile was on Xanders’ face as he said that.

“I would be honored.” Teal’c turned and walked back to the mat, Faith walking after him with a decidedly wicked smirk on her face.

“Teal’c, Faith is going to take you down. Try and stop her. Ready Faith?” Xander instructed, staying well away from the sides of the mat. Cameron, Sam, and Daniel were all looking at him funny.

“Isn’t that what we just saw a little bit ago?” Asked Daniel looking at the smirk on Faith’s face, and funny smile on Xanders with a considering look.

“Not exactly, that was just for show. Teal’c you ready?” After waiting for a nod of assent from Teal’c, he snapped out. “Faith, GO!”

It was like she had been hit by a jolt of electricity. Faith grabbed the staff she had been holding, with both hands, snapped it in two, and leapt towards Teal’c. The snapping of the two inch thick staff had the SG1 members flinching, but they barely had time to do more than that as she dropped, swept Teal’c’s feet from under him, and was on top of him, knees holding his arms down, and the broken end of the stake at his heart.

“That is slayer speed.” Xander commented quietly as Faith grinned and hopped back up, pulling up a quite startled Teal’c from the floor. “Granted she had surprise and none of you really expected her to be able to move that fast, but that is a Slayer.”

“She broke the fucking staff.” Mitchell said flatly, looking at the two pieces in her hands, “She broke it in half.” Sam and Daniel both stood there with a look of shock on their face.

“Yep, I have seen them bend steel bars for their use, a Slayer is chosen to fight demons. They have to be stronger and faster. We needed to make sure you understood that, but we didn’t really want everyone to walk out of here shell shocked. I hope that’s okay.”

There was a long moment of silence then Daniel spoke up. “Wise of you, this sort of information would spread too fast. Right now everyone is just talking about how Faith beat Teal’c and there will be bets on re-matches. If most of the base saw this, I doubt they would believe you were human Faith.”

“Hey… 100% human here, just a little on the mystical side, not my fault.” Protested Faith still standing next to Teal’c. “Teal’c you okay? I know I moved fast, but… wanted to prove a point.” Shrugging a little.

Teal’c looked at Faith for a long time then bowed deeply “If I was not already bonded to Ishtar, I would be honored to ask you to be my mate.”

Most of the room froze, especially Faith.

“Um... marriage... uh no thanks, not ready for that... hell I am still trying to find someone to date.” Faith babble out, completely blown over by that statement.

“Perhaps you look too hard SlayerFaith.” Teal’c replied with an enigmatic smile. Daniel meanwhile was choking “Okay you guys are going to kill me with surprises. No one has EVER impressed Teal’c like that… that was a very big compliment he gave you Faith.”

Xander was quiet during all of this having been the only one to notice the half quirk of an eyebrow in his direction as Teal’c turned away.

“Um.. thanks Teal’c, um… more than ready to spar with you some more, you have some wicked cool moves I would love to learn, but for now uh.. you keep busy with, Ishtar was it?” Stammered out Faith, with an actual blush on her face.

“Indeed I shall, she is a fine warrior also, but none I have seen ever matched you.”

Faith snorted a bit and muttered softly, “You haven’t seen Buffy with PMS.”

Teal’c frowned, but did not follow up on it, turning his attention back to the quiet Xander and the still surprised Mitchell, Carter, and Jackson.

“Sparring is over, I am going to shower.” With that Teal’c turned and headed to the lockers, not waiting for anything or anyone else.

Xander laughed a little, looking down at the sweat drying on his shirt. “That sounds like a good idea. I believe our schedule had me with Dr. Jackson after lunch? Cool, then I’m for shower and then meet you where Dr. Jackson after food?”

Daniel blinked “Oh please, Daniel… especially since you won’t let us call you Mr. Harris, I would feel very old being called mister all the time. My office.” Daniel rattled off the level and room.

“Cool… see you there after chow.” Xander snapped a salute not thinking and turned headed towards the locker.

Cameron’s eyes narrowed a bit at that, ~more bloody clues, okay these two are either going to give me grey hair or I am going to pull it all out, before this is through I just know it. At this rate I’m going to end up looking like Jack or Gen. Hammond.~

Faith grinned and headed to the lockers, planning on enjoying a long hot shower, with no one yelling about her using up all the hot water. That was still a bit of a luxury.

After a shower and eating lunch with Faith, both of which they spent getting kidded or congratulated by SGC personnel, to the point Faith was blushing and Xander was in a state of shock.

“I still can’t believe only four other people on base have ever beaten Teal’c and that most people rarely hold out that long against him. I’m not that good.” Xander muttered confused and flushed at the same time.

“Xan listen, you tend to fight against the creatures I was CREATED to fight against, and you’re still alive, personally I bet you’re a hell of a lot better than you think, or you’d be dead.” Faith replied in slightly amused tones. “So quit stressing it, and enjoy the fame.”

“Easy for you to say ‘Miss Only Civilian and Only Female to ever beat Teal’c’.” Xander teased, as he finished up his large helping of food.

“Yep it is, you are better than you think, you are better than you think. See how easy to say that is?” She grinned at him.

“Ha-ha very funny.” Xander sighed and stood up with his tray. “Okay I am off to talk to Daniel, and you get the lovely Sam for GED stuff.”

Faith wrinkled her nose. “Joy, school. Oh well, at least Sam is nice to look at.” Teasing Xander a bit.

“True, but Vala has more of that bad girl thing going on.” Xander smiled back at Faith, enjoying the by-play and ordering his very active imagination to quit generating images of Faith and Vala.

“That she does, girl has just as good taste in leather as I do, wonder if I can get her to take me shopping where ever it is that she goes?” Faith remarked thoughtfully.

“Who knows, you can but ask. Okay heading out, see you later gor..” Xander stopped and just smiled and quickly walked away.

~gor?? Hmmm… I wonder if he meant gorgeous?~ Faith grinned and humming happily to herself picked up her tray and headed towards Sam’s office.

Xander got lost twice on the way to Daniel’s office and by the time he got there was royally frustrated and upset. He knocked on the door, and heard Daniel’s voice “It’s open.”

Xander pushed opened the door, “Sorry I’m late, got lost twice, and had to have an airman show me where I messed up.”

Daniel looked up and snickered “Not really an issue, I have been here for way too many years and occasionally I still get lost, come in, grab a chair.” Waving around the room absently there were piles of document papers, all over the chairs and tables. Artifacts in various stages of wholeness were piled all over the room, from various planets and times. Books were everywhere, on bookshelves, chairs, even piles on the floor.

“Wow, and here I thought Giles was bad when it came to books everywhere.” Xander remarked absently looking around as he headed for a chair.

“Giles, who is that?” Asked Daniel, keeping his face down over the document he was working on.

“Our high school librarian.” Xander answered absently, then looked up and grinned “And a Watcher if that is what you were looking for.” Watching Daniel closely with a slightly amused look.

Daniel could almost hear the capital W Xander placed on Watcher; grinning back “Maybe if I knew what a Watcher was. So talk to me, I get the feeling there is a lot of stuff that I dismissed as pure fiction that actually has much fact in it.”

Xander finally found a mostly empty chair, pointed to the stuff that was piled there, “Where do you want me to put this, Sumerian I believe?” A wry smile on his face. He was rewarded by another grin from Daniel.

“On the pile on the table with the other Sumerian documents please?” Xander nodded, finding them quickly and placing them there neatly and with due care. He had been yelled at enough by Giles to show proper appreciation for old documents.

“So what do you want to know?” Xander asked taking a seat across from Daniel straddling the chair with easy nonchalance, watching and waiting.

“Everything of course.” Answered Daniel surprised. “What else would I want to know?”

A snort of humor emerged from Xander. “Well asking me structured questions is usually better, otherwise we’ll be here for four years as I talk, and it’ll be so disjointed and unstructured, you’ll have no idea how half of it relates to anything else.” Xander shrugged. He knew how his mind worked and linear was not part of it.

Daniel nodded slowly, his own mind worked like that, so he could understand. Thinking for a moment he came up with specific questions. “I believe you mentioned that mythology often had more than a kernel of truth to it. Why do you say that?”

Xander smiled at him. “Okay, I am going to give you the Watchers speech. This is the same speech they give to most new slayers. Remember I don’t necessarily know everything or anything, just what I’ve learned or ….deduced from what I’ve seen.” Xander took a deep breath “This is the canned speech the watchers give and I’ve heard this so often I have it memorized.” Xander smiled wryly and started:

"The world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures. The books tell the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed their blood. He was a human form possessed, infected by the demon's soul. He bit another, and another, and so they walk the Earth, feeding. Killing some, mixing their blood with others to make more of their kind. Waiting for the animals to die out, and the old ones to return. For as long as there have been vampires, there's been the Slayer. One girl in all the world, a Chosen One"

Daniel was madly taking notes as Xander spoke, copying the entire speech almost word for word. “Hmm.. okay this relates to a few creation myths mentioned by the Sumerians, and even Babylonian mythologies. But they believe that demons existed? Any chance they are aliens instead and a virus or some sort of infection?”

Xander frowned thinking about it. “I don’t know, religious mythology is easier to believe than aliens. Do I think they are aliens? No… cause aliens shouldn’t fear or be burned by crosses or holy water. That really shouldn’t work on them.”

Daniel blinked thinking. “True most races we have found tend to give our religious beliefs simple acknowledgement and nothing else. Okay then you wanted me to ask you specific questions, so tell me about all the demons you have met and their characteristics.”

Xander paled and held up a hand “Whoa.. we really don’t want to be here for a year with me hemming and hawing through that crap, tell you what, Wi..umm. my Witch friend is a geek, and she is mostly done compiling all the demons, their characteristics and weakness electronically, how about I get you a CD of it when she’s done?” Xander offered as he was trying desperately to avoid becoming a walking demon dictionary.

“Ooh… on CD? That would be perfect, how soon can I get it?” Daniel’s eyes had lit up at the thought of searchable information.

Xander shrugged, “Umm.. Probably a week, but where do I have her mail it to? I assume I can’t get mail here.”

“Not a problem, here.” Daniel scribbled a PO Box address down on a piece of paper. “That will get it to me ASAP.”

Xander shrugged, slipping the paper in his pocket and making a mental note to send an email to Willow tonight. The rest of the time with Daniel was spent finding out how much he knew about languages, and where his strengths and weakness were.

“Hmm.. not bad, better in fact that some of the archeology students I’ve had in the past, so are there any other tricks up your sleeve?” Daniel asked after three hours of interpreting various scripts and tablets.

“Um… language wise? Just this I guess.” Xander grabbed a blank piece of paper and a pencil and carefully drew out a few character groupings. ~wonder if he has ever seen any of this before, hope Giles doesn’t kill me, but this is too important for them not to know~

Daniel looked at it, for a long moment frowning, then his eyes widened. “Wait… you know that?!? Wait a second.” Scrambling up Daniel ran to his desk, digging through a drawer, and came up with a folder, bringing it back to the table, and opening it to see a bunch of photos of pictographs on walls in the same type of script that Xander had written out on the paper. “We found these images over a year ago, and I have never been able to decipher them, they don’t match any language form I’m familiar with. What is it?”

“Toltash, most common language used in demon prophecies. See look, this writing on this wall says ‘Black Son of Sun God leads to false life, beware that which hides inside, those who guide the light, all will die.’ Typical prophecy stuff, means nothing until you have already lived through it. But where is this?” Xander commented looking at the pictures of the walls, frowning.

Distracted Daniel answered “PX-3542. So demon language? The demons have different languages?”

“Another planet?” Xander paled and sat down hard. “Shit. Okay someday you and Giles are really going to have to have a long talk. And of course they do, humans have multiple languages, there are multiple types of demons, so why wouldn’t they have their own languages?”

Daniel blinked and blushed a little “Oh.. yeah, guess that would make sense wouldn’t it?”

A shrug “It seems logical, but I am just the donut boy, so hell if I know.” Xander replied flipping through the pictures, trying to see the rest of the writing.

“Donut boy??” Daniel exclaimed truly surprised. “Xander do you realize that only a small percentage of people ever learn to read ancient scripts much less be able to translate them?”

Xander directed a solid look at Daniel thinking for a moment. “Maybe, but I learned out of self preservation not a desire to learn, so I discount that a lot, maybe I am more than I thought I was, this place is slowly showing me I may not be the loser I thought I was.” He made a show of looking at the clock. “Hey chow time, I am out of here, see you Monday for another round of quiz the Xander.”

With that Xander was out the door before Daniel could formulate a reply, but leaving a puzzled Daniel standing there. After a moment he nodded briskly and headed down to Sam’s office to talk to Faith, maybe she could explain it.

While Xander had been ensconced with Daniel, Faith had been learning and enjoying it, much to her very great surprise. Sam had focused on getting her math and science skills up to par, and gave her experiments to do that showed how basic physics worked, which bolstered her math and research skills. All in all the three hours sped by so quickly that Faith was still immersed in her last experiment -- trying to figure out why things in a vacuum fall at the same rate but outside they don’t. She was hovering over a small vacuum chamber you could pump air out of and had a piece of paper, a marble, and a feather in it, and was very busy changing variables, and recording everything. It was fun and that amazed her, she had expected book work and everything to be dry and boring.

Sam smiled to herself as she watched Faith. After having seen her in action, and knowing about her past Sam guessed that book work would drive this woman insane, but the hands on experiments would intrigue her and make her want to learn, and so far she was right, Faith was having a blast and was busy learning more than she thought. Sam looked up to see Daniel standing in the door watching both of them. “Hey bookworm, you done with your prisoner already?”

Daniel grinned, he has missed Sam. “Yep, he ran away like he was being chased, so thought I would come down and see how your prisoner is doing.” Faith had looked up from her experiment, flashed him a smile and went back to recording her results.

“Pretty good, think she was relieved I wasn’t doing the whole school marm thing. But she is very smart and learning by leaps and bounds.” Sam smiled at Faiths’ bent head, writing furiously.

“Never had a doubt. Hey Faith, think I could talk to you for a moment when you are done, maybe walk you back?”

Faith looked up for a moment, and something crossed her face that Daniel couldn’t identify, but then she smiled, “Sure, about 5 more minutes.” And Faith went back to finishing up, then putting everything away.

Sam and Daniel stood and talked for a few moments, still trying to figure out what to do about the Ori, though Sam thought it was hilarious the way Daniel avoided even mentioning Vala. (note: Beachhead has not occurred yet).

Faith finished up, dropping off the ‘assignments’ with Sam “Thanks, that was fun, see you on Monday.” Grinning, then a bit more warily turned to Daniel. “So lets go Four Eyes.” Smiling a bit to show she did not mean to hurt, but still wary.

“Four Eyes? Oh God it is Jack in a female body, I am dead.” Daniel said looking at her in astonishment, half expecting her to call him SpaceMonkey next. ~note to self, NEVER let her talk to Jack.~

“Who’s Jack? And sides you are the whole science/language thingy guy, sounds right to me. So what’s up?” Replied Faith, stance a bit wary as they walked.

“Jack was my former commander, and a good friend. He got promoted.” Daniel complained a little. He then continued with this reason for talking to her. “Xander.. I wanted to ask you some questions about Xander.” Daniel replied taking in her posture.

Faith relaxed for a moment, then tensed up again. “What about ‘im?”

“Okay first I have to ask, why were you so tense a minute ago, I can understand you being worried when I asked about Xander, but why about the just wanting to talk to you?” Daniel was confused, and not sure if he was reading the body language properly.

“oh… well thought the other shoe was about to drop, and I was gonna have to pay for getting t’stay here.” Faith shrugged not looking at him at all.

“Pay? Pay what?” Daniel stopped in the hall looked at her, and first turned white, then red “You thought I was going to demand you have sex with me, for the right to stay HERE?!?” His voice had risen as he talked, and the last word came out as a strangled yelp. He looked around quickly wanting to make sure no one was overhearing this conversation. He did not want Faith compromised in any way.

Faith shrugged “Well yeah… this is a pretty cool set up, and you guys are letting us in, I thought that might be part of the price.” Sounding matter of fact and cool about it, but he detected a hint of fear.

“Faith look at me.” Daniel waiting until she stopped and looked at him. “You will never have to do anything sexual or anything you find morally repugnant while you work here. If anyone EVER tries to convince you that you have to have sex with them in ANY way to keep your job, you come tell me, Sam, Mitchell, or the General, immediately. That is not why you are here, you two are turning out to be VERY valuable members of SGC, and we don’t work that way.” Every word was honest and true, and Faith blushed a little at thinking that of Daniel.

“Okay… got it… and thanks.” Faith shrugged a little, trying to appear strong and unaffected, and started walking again. “So what did you want to know about Xanman?”

Daniel walked with her, trying to get back on the original topic he had come down here for. “He puts himself down a lot, calling himself donut boy, and doesn’t seem to realize how rare the ability to understand ancient languages is, much less survive against Teal’c or tell when someone lies. Why does he think so little of the amazing things he can do?”

Faith turned and looked at him for a long moment, her dark brown eyes piercing, then started walking again. “I can’t answer fer sure, but I can tell you what I suspect. You gotta realize Xan and I were not on really good terms for a quite a while, I hurt him really badly and made some REALLY bad choices, but he seems to have forgiven me, he did drag me along on this adventure after all. You have to understand he spent almost 10 years with a powerful witch, slayer, vampires, demons, military special ops guys, and a watcher who seemed to know everything. He was put down a lot and told to ‘stay back cause you might get hurt’ regardless of how much he helped. So here he is this normal guy, surrounded by peeps with powers or training or skills, he didn’t have. I think he just got used to thinking of himself as useless good for nothing but… getting donuts.” Faith spoke quietly as they walked, glad someone was asking about Xander. “He’s a great guy, and has a heart bigger than any I’ve ever seen, he just don’t think he’s worth much.”

Daniel listened to her and thought ~what would it be like to have someone like Faith to spar with, who can clean the floor with Teal’c or the Red Witch who makes Sam’s logic go haywire, or demons who grant wishes. Hell I might develop and inferiority complex with people like that in my life~ Out loud he replied to Faith after a moment. “I see.. yeah I might get rather down on myself with those influences also, but he is smart, and gifted. I hope he realizes that.”

Faith tilted her head “He might… If’n he get friends who value his skills, he might start to also.”

Daniel nodded again, hiding a grin at her non-subtleness. “I will keep that mind. See you later Faith.” Daniel turned and headed back to his office, as Faith headed to the cafeteria and Xander.

Finding him sitting there, she flopped next to him, draping an arm over his shoulders “Heya boytoy, wanna do some romping?” Grinning as more than a few airmen glanced their way envious of the attention Xander was getting from the gorgeous young woman.

“Thanks gorgeous.. but my brain is fried, and all I want is food, then a chance to dream of how I am spending my money tomorrow on our shopping trip.” Replied Xander, testing to see if she would blush again. Her delighted grin just made him smile a bit more. ~good warrior, good mate~ Was the quiet thought that floated through; and he almost choked. ~where the hell did that come from??~ Xander thought looking around furiously. ~they didn’t tell me there were any telepaths here.~

Faith was grinning at his compliment, but frowned at his choking and looking around. “What up?”

just thought I heard something. So whatcha going to buy?” The rest of the meal was spent idly talking about dreams and the idea they might have a home.

Chapter 8

Faith and Xander were headed towards the cafeteria, both in full morning grumpiness. Faith wanted protein and Xander was dying for coffee. The session yesterday with Daniel had pulled out his brain cells. He still was not certain how to handle some one treating him as if he might have something useful to say. Normally he was better in the morning, but all night long he had strange dreams, he could not quite remember, though he was exhausted as if he had been running or chasing things all night long.

They both stumbled into the hall, mornings were still difficult for Faith, though Xander was just desperate for coffee to try and counteract the rough night he had. He ran into Daniel at the coffee pot and Daniel recognized a brother caffeine addict. Silently he handed Xander a mug of coffee, shuddering a bit as Xander added sugar to it, and nodding in response to Xander’s muttered “bless you.” as Xander poured the coffee down his throat.

Daniel followed them back to their table, blinking a bit at the large amount of food Faith had piled on her plate, mostly meats and eggs, and Xander’s’ slightly smaller amount.

Mitchell came over sitting down next to them, with his own tray. Daniel looked up and nodded. “Better double the coffee rations for off world trips, got another caffeine addict on your team.” Daniel jerked his head towards Xander who was working on his second cup off coffee.

“So I see, so noted.” Mentally Cameron increased the already doubled coffee allotment for away missions and made a note to include more chocolate, he was pretty damn sure both Faith and Xander were junk food whores.

Breakfast was continued in silence until everyone looked much more awake. Cameron looked around at the relatively empty chow hall, as it was Saturday, and grinned. “So, are you two ready for a trip into town to make this place a little more homey?”

“OH Hell yes.” Responded Faith who was polishing off her plate of food. “I can’t believe that I actually am getting a real paycheck, but trust me, there is definitely some stuff I want to buy.”

Xander nodded with enthusiasm now that he was fully caffeinated. “Hey Mitchell do you know if I can put an X-box in my room?” Trying to not look hopeful.

Cameron shrugged “As far as I know the only thing you can’t have in your rooms are drugs or alcohol, and they do frown on any level of bass that makes the doors rattle.” Giving Xander a wink.

Xander started dancing in his seat “I get and x-box, I get an X-box… “ He grinned at the people looking at him curiously. “Just wait… I am going to introduce Teal’c to Halo.” Grinning as he got up and took his tray away.

Cameron paused and paled, “You wouldn’t…. “ Looking at Xander’s face. “you would… oh god… “

Xander just grinned and snarked “Figure a little NHL, some Halo, maybe a bit of MechWarrior, and Teal’c will never be the same.”

Cameron shook his head in horror and Daniel snickered “Wait until I tell Jack, he is going to kill you Xander.”

Vala strolled up to them as they walked down the hall towards the quarters so that Xander and Faith could get the stuff they needed to open up accounts. Faith was still jazzed with her new id, Faith Revere. Her eyes lit up as she saw Vala in her trade mark leather outfit. “Vala I was looking for you. You wanna come with, and show me where you get such killer threads?”

The group behind her went quiet, and Vala froze for a moment, pasting a patently fake smile on her face. “Sorry darling, I would just love to go, I am so afraid that I am needed desperately on base. But if I ever get clearance, I would love to take you to where I shop; you at least would appreciate the quality of the merchandise.” With a smile that looked like it hurt it was so bright, she turned and sailed down the hall, the skirt whipping behind her.

Faith blinked then crossed her arms and slowly turned to the quiet group behind her. Xander was just as confused and turned to look at Daniel and Cameron standing there, looking like they had eaten something awful, but could not spit it out because of where they were. “Okay spill it, what the hell was that about?”

Daniel huffed glaring with a surprising amount of anger at the retreating back of Vala. Then he began counting off on his fingers as he talked. “First she use to be a Goa’uld and did horrible things as one, and then once the Goa’uld was removed she still pretended to be Qetesh, ruling over a planet to save her own skin. Then she tricks us, by slapping a type of linking bracelets onto me, linking her to me so that we are forced to bring her on a search with us for a map she had, all because she wanted the possible loot that might be there. Then after the bracelets are removed the link does not end, so we have to go earn favors from all these various people she has cheated or tricked to find out the reason the effect did not end. The cause was a memory device we BOTH had to use because of the bracelets that caused a surge. Not only did she die while we were in the memories because she could not keep her mouth shut, we caught the attention of the Ori. Then once back here, she STILL has to stay near me until the blasted link wears off. Then we go back to the planet were she was Qetesh, we made her tell them who she was and try to convince the people the Ori are evil and she failed, ending up standing trial for her past crimes. So she has proven she is an untrustworthy, lying, sneaky, conniving excuse for a human.” In full rant Daniel grumbled and muttered under his breath in another language, still about Vala.

Faith leaned over to Xander still annoyed and whispered “Is he still muttering?”

“Yeah Sumerian, I think.” Wander was watching Daniel with a suddenly piercing eye. Raising his voice so Daniel and Cameron could hear him, Xander spoke. “So let me get this right, she was a host of one of the snake thingies, which makes her a victim, and apparently the way she survived after having the snake removed involved her being sneaky, distrustful, and willing to do anything to survive. She provides a map to you, and obviously you were going to not include her, even though it was her map, so she forced you to bring her, by the use of these linking bracelets.

Then she agrees to use a memory device with you, because you wanted to use it regardless of the possible consequences to her, so she agreed. Then while in said device, in a place she had no training for, she makes a mistake and ends up dying. Then because her own personality came through the Ori noticed and that was her fault. Then when you go back to where she was ruler, where she pretended to still be this snake KT something, she was forced to tell them the truth about her charade, and as a result she was put on trial. So she is now stuck here on a planet with people she doesn’t know, with no friends, and her captors treat her as an inconvenience because of her past, one that I doubt she willingly chose, and you wonder why she is not upfront and honest? Hmmm… ” Xander stood there arms crossed, watching the two men. “I would be a sneaky, lying, conniving bitch if I was being treated as not only a prisoner but had my efforts discounted at every turn.”

Cameron and Daniel both just looked at Xander jaws dropped, and slowly what he had said filtered through and they both began to blush. Red faced and ashamed Daniel stammered back “Hey she is not a prisoner….she just can’t go anywhere.” His voice trailed off at that, and he looked at Cameron. “We can be assholes can’t we?”

“Yep. Come on Dannyboy, what is the worst that can happen? Even prisoners get phone call privileges, lets take her shopping, we at least owe her that when we didn’t let her keep any of Arthur’s hoard.”

Daniel sighed “She drives me nuts though.” He commented through gritted teeth.

Xander chuckled then started to laugh as he turned and started walking down the hall. “She only does that because you like each other, otherwise you would never get that upset. Go get her and let’s go spend some money.”

Fifteen minutes later a glowing and excited Vala, dressed a little more conservatively, was walking down the hall arm in arm with Faith comparing the values of different types of leather, both for fun and business. The men trailed behind, torn between watching the very nice set of asses in front of them, and trying very hard to not listen to the women compare the chafing qualities of different grades of leather.

The banking stuff was easy and routine, then they hit the mall. Vala stood there for a long moment. Then quietly said “This is your shopping center?”

Faith shrugged “Yeah.. a bit on the small side, you should see the Mall of the Americas. Now that place is impressive.” Vala stood there looking around at the two levels and the various stores surrounding them, and slowly her smile grew, until it was a wicked daring smile that had Daniel stepping backwards with a hand protecting his wallet. “Oh… this is gonna be fun.”

“Dear lord we have created a monster.” Whispered Xander who saw death in both women’s eyes as they each grabbed one of his arms, and started dragging him.

“Come on Xanman we are going to need someone to carry our stuff.” Announced Faith as she and Vala made a bee line to the shoe store first.

Xander looked back over his shoulder to Daniel and Cameron standing there with relieved looks on their faces for having escaped. “Help me?” He whimpered looking at them pleadingly.

They both waved to him, “Enjoy.” Remarked Cameron and he and Daniel both turned around and headed to the Media Store.

“Traitors” muttered Xander as he gave into his fate. “Okay ladies you have your beast of burden, but I do get to get some stuff for myself, and the X-box, k? Please?” Almost begging.

“Hmmm… I guess we could be nice and let him buy a few things for himself, after all, he has to live down there in that lightless place also…Okay Xan we will be nice to you, but only after we hit our stores.” Faith teased him, eyes lighting up with a gleam as she pointed to the first store they were going to hit, Fredericks of Hollywood.

Xander paled as he saw this “The gods truly do hate me.” Whimpering softly as he was dragged to his fate.

Three hours later Cameron and Daniel were sitting in a Starbucks drinking a coffee, Daniel with a book in front of him, and Cameron with a Gameboy. Their shopping had taken them may an hour, and after talking a little bit they were both spending the time following their own pursuits. Daniel glanced up to see two women, dressed in skin tight leather, and long coats walking towards him. It was not until he saw Xander trailing miserably behind them, loaded down with packages, that he realized it was Vala and Faith.

“Holy Moly. Damn they look good.” Daniel muttered. Their faces had exotic make up on them, clothes that were glove like, arrogance and self esteem that poured off of them.

Cameron looked up at Daniels comment and his jaw dropped. “damn.” He whispered, looking them over.

Vala walked straight up to them and pulling out Daniel’s chair straddled his lap. “Like what you see Dr. Jackson?” She drawled soft and low in his ear.

Daniel’s body had an instant reaction to this, regardless of what he said. “Vala please remove yourself from my body, I do not enjoy this sort of public show.” His voice icy. v“Oh really? Funny your body says differently.” Vala ground against his crotch for a moment, then smoothly stood up. “Well boys, my lovely friend Faith here, and I do declare this mall defeated, we have gone through the stores and found a wealth of supplies for ourselves, we are ready to return to our domiciles and have the decorating begin.” She said grandly gesturing wildly, with a truly happy look on her face.

Xander meanwhile had collapsed into a chair. His head laying on his arms on the table. ~those women are dangerous, never seen a battle strategy like that, and it was a battle on the stores, I am exhausted~ He whimpered silently in his mind. A faint though floated through. ~mate look good, smell good~ had him jerking his head up for a moment, but it was too much effort. ~damn telepath, Faith does look good though~ and his mind lapsed back into exhaustion.

Cameron had to fight down a grin at Xander being so exhausted. “What exactly did you two ladies do to him?”

Xander whimpered and looked up to find Vala and Faith grinning. He dropped his head back on the table and started talking. “First it was Fredericks, and they made me give them opinions on the stuff they were looking at, then shoes, again asking my opinions. Then clothes, and make up. Then they dragged me to a men’s store and made me try on cloths and then buy what they wanted to see me in.” Xander whimpered softly, head hitting the table as Cameron and Daniel paled a little at the tortures they had escaped. Xander lifted his head and looked at the ladies pleadingly “Best Buy now please?”

Vala looked at Faith “Well do you think he has earned that right?”

Faith looked at Xander consideringly. “Well he did buy what we told him to, and he did give us honest answers in both Fredericks and the cosmetic sections.” The other two men blanched at that, looking at Xander with more respect. “So I think he deserves Best Buy. Besides which I want an mp3 player and some music.” A grin flashing across her face.

Vala frowned “What is a mp3 player?” Both Cameron and Daniel dropped their heads to the table and softly thudded them on the table. Xander lifted his head and looked at them.

“Oh no… I have NO sympathy, you traitors abandoned me, so you can bet I am going to introduce Vala to Bloodhound Gang, Linkin’ Park, AC/DC, and anything else I can think of. And then… “ He stopped and smiled a very scary smile. “I will introduce her to iTunes and set it up with one of YOUR credit cards.” Standing up slowly. “Shall we go ladies? They can carry the bags.” Offering an arm to each woman, who gladly took it, they walked out with Vala turning her head to call back.

“Come on boys, bring the packages, I can’t wait to hear this Linkin’ Park Xander was talking about.”

By the time they got out of Best Buy two hours later, Xander had his X-box and 4 games, but Faith and Vala were close as could be. They both got iPods, and Xander had exposed Vala to every type of music, even country. Vala had an instant liking to Linkin’ Park, Meatloaf, Evanescence, and Wagner. The ride home, she rode upfront with Daniel and Cameron talking excitedly about the lyrics and music of every song, while Xander and Faith rode in the back trying to not laugh.

When they got back, Xander collapsed on the bed, bags around him, and the next morning he woke to find he had not even managed to get out of his clothes. He spent the morning setting up the X-box and other things he got, even taking the time to hang up the new clothes. Both Vala and Faith said his shirts were torture and they were not putting up with it, so they had re-styled him. By the point they got him to the men’s store, he was so weak he would have agreed to anything to get it over with, so his resistance was less than it normally would have been.

Finally his room was set up, and Xander felt at home for the first time ever. The basement had been something he tolerated, the apartment had been more for Anya than him, but this, this was his and he smiled. Xander then started planning on the introduction of Teal’c and the X-box. Though both would have to wait until his skills were freshened up, and Teal’c came back from visiting the Jaffa council.

Xander and Faith fell into their daily routines of training, procedures and reading incident reports, and then off to their taskmasters. Xander having received the CD from Willow deposited it in Daniel’s hands and correspondingly spent the next month explaining stuff to him and detailing various encounters with different demons. Daniel was by turns excited and horrified. Xander finally introduced him to daemon.net one Friday afternoon, then ran like hell to avoid hours of questioning, grabbing Faith and Vala, and they took off to see a movie in town. Vala and Faith were fast becoming friends. Faith understanding Vala’s attitude of “anything is fine if I survive” and Vala loving Faiths outlook on life “fuck ‘em”, so together they were something to be reckoned with. Xander just watched and learned, absorbing information like crazy. Emails were sent back and forth between Dawn, Willow, Buffy and Xander, and they all worked on keeping their friendship, but they could all tell Xander was happier than he had been for a very long time.

Faith was progressing well in her studies and bets were being taken on her GED score much to her embarrassed delight. She would be able to take the test in about a month. Once her GED was finished, their final “graduation” exercise was planned, after that off world missions would begin.

Around this time tensions in SGC were getting higher and higher because of the issue with the Ori, until a report of another world colonized by free Jaffa, that was being pressured to convert sent Sam, Teal’c, Daniel, and Vala out on a mission. Xander and Faith waited anxiously for them to get back, trying to concentrate on study and mission logs. Tensions kept ratcheting up, as the Goa’uld was no help. Finally General Landry asked Xander to talk to him.

“We aren’t sure if he is telling the truth or not, maybe you can … perceive the truth.” The General asked, “We don’t have any other options. I know we didn’t want to tip our hand as to your existence, but if he is lying we won’t let him leave anyhow.”

Xander shrugged “Might as well see what I can do.”

Walking into the room he was struck by the presence of the snake in the man, and the black oiliness that seemed to surround the man. It took Xander a minute to realize no one else saw this but him. Settling down in a chair, far away from the man gorging on food, he looked at him carefully, seeing that the Goa’uld was much more aware of him than he let on.

“So you have come to ask me more questions, what can I tell you, the Ori must be stopped.” Nerus said, stuffing his face with food.

Xander blinked as the aura flicked. “Bullshit, you don’t want them stopped, you want them to succeed.”

Nerus choked a little looking at him. “Nonsense my dear boy, why would I want them to succeed, I told you where they were so that your people could stop them.”

Again that flickering and Xander smiled, it was cold and cruel, Nerus flinched a little when he saw it. “No you told us so our ships would go there, you want them there. Why?”

Nerus stopped eating. “Why would I want that, of course I want them stopped, why else would I send you to where they are, to try and save the planet of course.” He grabbed a glass of water and gulped it.

Xander barely glanced, he could see the truth, and part of it scared him, but the aura flickered when he lied and he could almost know which words were the lie. “No, you want them there, having them there helps the Ori, I think your feast is over.” Xander stood up and strode out, leaving a confused and suddenly scared Goa’uld sitting there.

“General, he is a plant, the Ori want our ships there, they need them for something. You have to call them back now, it is the key to some sort of plan the Ori have.” His fiddling with the situation, pulling and placing facts with suppositions, the solider helping prodding, offering alternate scenarios so fast Xander only was conscious of pieces falling into place. “The ships… weapons… god they need something from the weapons.”

Landry paled, and ordered a communication to the Daedaelus. Sam’s voice came on the line, but they were too late. “General, the energy from our weapons has just fueled what they are doing, we think they are creating a portal from the energy the destruction of the planet will cause. We are trying to stop them. Colonel Carter out.”

Xander flinched “Too late, we were too late.”

A grim smile on the General’s face. “You can’t blame yourself Xander, you figured it out in minutes, I should have trusted your skills long ago, I was wrong. I won’t make that mistake again.”

The next few hours were hectic, but finally they received word that the team, their friends had stopped the Ori. But even in the message they knew something was wrong. It took a week for the Daedaleus to return to earth, and when Cameron, Sam, Teal’c, and Daniel walked in, Xander knew what was wrong.

“Hey guys, welcome back, glad to see you are okay. So… where’s Vala?” Asked Faith, trying to be bright and perky, but she knew something was wrong.

Daniel was the one who replied, having a hard time looking at Faith or Xander. “She didn’t make it, she sacrificed herself to prevent the Ori from creating a giant stargate.”

Faith was quiet for a long moment, then a fake smile was pasted on her face. “I see… well we knew this job had risks. Glad to see the rest of you are five by five. Talk to you later.” She turned and walked out of the room.

Xander glanced at her and them. “She is really dead?”

“Yes” “Maybe” “Possibly” Were the answers he got. He looked at them for a long moment, then sighed “So she stopped but them, but in such a manner that you have no proof of her death or life?”

“Basically” Replied Daniel looking up at Xander with sorrow in his eyes.

“I see. See you guys in the morning.” With that he turned and went after Faith. Xander found her laying on her bed, eyes closed, face blank, but her hands were curled into fists, showing how very upset she was.

“Hey gorgeous.” Xander said softly, sitting down on the bed next to her.

Faith opened eyes glistening with tears. “I liked her. She was like one of my first friends, who liked me for me, not what I could do or what I was. And I have lost her already.”

“Oh Faith, listen to me. Yes she might be dead. But I have seen Slayers be resurrected three months after death, I have seen people wake up from comas, I have watched a glowing ball of energy become a beautiful young woman. Let’s give Vala the benefit of the doubt until we have her ashes in our hand. Okay?” Xander replied softly, laying down next to Faith and gently pulling her into his arms.

Faith resisted for a moment then gave in, relaxing in his arms and crying, for the lost of a friend she never expected and the knowledge someone cared enough to hold her. They lay there for a long time, Xander doing nothing more than holding her and enjoying having her in his arms. His mind was working on the problem with the Ori, but he knew he needed more information.

Finally Xander spoke. “You okay Faith?”

Her muffled voice replied sleepily “Five by five.”

Xander smiled and slowly removed himself from her arms. She murmured a little and curled up, falling asleep. Xander covered her with a blanket, and slipped out the door. The solider in his mind whispered a question ~why does she use a military term for her state of being?~

The next day was rather strange and awkward, but soon enough everyone fell back into the same routine, but for Faith and Xander there was a Vala shaped hole in their lives, one they both wished was not there.

Chapter 9

Faith and Xander met each other in the cafeteria, wide awake anxious, and a lot jazzed. Today was graduation day, and they were by turned elated and terrified. Xander could always eat, attacking the sausage on his plate, and inhaling a cup of coffee. A few minutes later Cameron waltzed into the cafeteria, arrogance and humor radiating from him. “Hello fodder, really to be chewed up and spit out?”

Faith narrowed her eyes and put on a sweet smile “Don’t be too sure of that flyboy, what happens if we kick your asses?”

A superior smirk crossed Cameron’s face. “If you win, I will take you on a ride in one of the 302’s around the solar system. But, if you lose, you both have scrub all the paint marks off the wall on the entire base.”

Faith and Xander looked at each other for a long moment considering, then they both looked at him “Deal.”

Cameron grinned “Suckers you will never get out of here with out us nailing you so dead.”

“Maybe.” Xander shrugged with a slight smile. “When is the briefing?”

Cameron glanced at the clock on the wall, currently it was 0630. “Briefing is at 0730 and the exercise begins almost immediately after it.”

“Cool, we will be there ready to kick your asses.” Jibed Faith, with a big grin as she ate some more.

Cameron sighed watching her put the food away. “Damn girl, wish I could eat like you do, if I did that I would not fit into a flight suit in very short order.”

“Slayer metabolism does have some compensations.” Faith grinned at him with a smile as she ate another piece of sausage.

“Yes, but in this case wisdom will triumph over youth.” Retorted Cameron, looking glumly at his whole-wheat muffin and oatmeal.

Daniel and Teal’c walked in together at this point, catching Cameron’s last remark. “You talking about me again Mitchell, last time I checked I was the only bit of wisdom around.”

Teal’c’s lips twitched a tiny bit as he went to survey the food choices.

“Hey, I resemble that remark” replied Cameron, stealing a piece of bacon from Xander, but almost dropping it at the feral snarl that emerged from Xander’s lips.

“Don’t touch the meat.” Growled out Xander, stealing the piece of bacon back, then grinning and tossing it in his mouth.

Cameron blinked “Okay gotcha, no stealing food from Xander’s plate, so noted.”

Faith meanwhile was choking with laughter. “You think that is bad, try to get between him and a Twinkie, you are risking your life.”

“Hey… NO ONE messes with my Twinkies.” Xander nodded sagely still eating.

Teal’c had walked back at that point. “Question, what exactly is a Twinkie?”

Xander froze in horror, turning an aghast look at the other two. “You mean you have never introduced him to a Twinkie???”

Daniel shrugged “Don’t look at me, that would have been Jack’s arena, and I think he prefers Ho-Ho’s.”

Xander shook his head sadly and reached out patting Teal’c gently on the arm “Don’t worry big guy, as soon as this exercise is over I will show you the wonder that is a Twinkie.”

Teal’c arched an eyebrow. “I shall look forward to that then.”

Mitchell just shrugged “Okay lady and gent, we shall meet you in the briefing room shortly.” He finished his breakfast, bussed his tray and headed out. Daniel followed with a shrug, thinking this was going to be rather unfair to these two, after all SG1 knew the base and had more years of experience on them.

Xander waited until everyone had left then turned to Faith. “You ready to see if we can surprise them a bit?”

Faith, stuck the last piece of bacon in her mouth, fighting a wicked grin. “Five by Five.”

They slipped out, heading back to Xanders' quarters first, where he picked up a couple of mini discs, Willow had mailed to him. Then they swung by Faith quarters and she grabbed a thing super strong nylon rope, a knife, and a flashlight, then they both made sure their necklaces were on. Faith took a moment to french braid her hair back in a tight braid, and secure it with a hair band. Faith tested the necklace by whispering softly “Alfred – Xander can you hear me.”

Xander heard the soft voice from his chest speak, and replied “Alfred – yes I can faith, read to go. Bruce.” The words Alfred activating two-way communication between them, and Bruce deactivation.

Faith grinned. “Bruce.” Then she headed out the door with Xander to the conference room, nothing on their faces, giving any of their secrets away.

They meet in the room, there were two groups of people there, SG13 and SG1. Dr Lam and Walter, as well as General Landry were there; they were the last two to enter and quietly took the seats near the front.

“Good morning people. I assume most of us know this is a soft live fire exercise, with Xander and Faith as our ‘enemies’ and the rest of us to prevent them from gaining access to the surface. In this drill, we will be using the paint ball guns, so please try to make chest kills. A shot anywhere on the body is regarded as a Zat shot, so you will be regarded as unconscious, two hits you are dead. For the purpose of this exercise, all labs, the medical offices, and personal quarters are off limits. I know in a real scenario they would not be, but I don’t want to explain to any of the scientists why their experiment is covered in paint.” There were general snickers at that comment. “We are starting with Faith and Xander having control of the gate room. They will start with two paint pistols, and have access to anything the guards or ‘victims’ drop. Any questions?”

Cameron raised his hand, and then spoke at the Generals nod “What is the time limit?”

“They have 8 hours to hit the surface, in that time we could easily get a nuke here to seal the place, so that is your mission and timeline. Anything else?” Landry looked around the room, catching the curiously blank faces of Xander and Faith and nodded to himself, starting to wish he had allowed betting on this endeavor. “Okay, the drill starts in 20 minutes, I will be on the surface acting as situation commander, everyone else, please get to your assigned stations. Dr. Lam will be staying in the medical wing, which is off limits unless someone is actually hurt. I know that if this was a real incident these rules would not apply, however I am not authorized to replace entire labs for drills, so please follow the rules, or I will be paying for new equipment out of the offenders paychecks.” There was a general chuckle over that and people nodding. “Okay everyone head out, and lets see what both sides can do.”

Everyone got up and headed out, Faith and Xander moving to the gate room, both ready to see if they could surprise people. They quickly got their pistols and two “MP Cards”, and went into the gate room, and watched the door slide shut. Both of them were counting the time; Xander was focusing on the computer as they waited, while Faith headed to the door, checking her gun and knife.

An alarm blared through the air, and Faith positioned herself next to the door, out of sight of the control room above the gate, and Xander moved to the computer. He inserted the first of the disks, and hit run. The computer whirled and buzzed for a torturous 2 minutes then popped up on the screen “Override Complete – select action.” There was a list of five options, Xander quickly tabbed to badges, and then entered the numbers off the back of both of them, and then waited. “Override complete, all badges disabled, badges with numbers” it listed the numbers for the two badges entered “granted full access to all areas. Please make next choice.”

“Faith, do we want the lights out or not?” Xander asked

“Not yet, let’s leave it for a bit, you get the schematics for the ventilation?” Asked Faith, as she finished tying the rope from one side of the door opening to the other, listening to the footsteps coming down the hall. “Here they come.”

“Okay, I’m ready.” Xander replied, pulling the disk out of the computer, and shutting it off. “They trying the door?” As he got in position behind the ramp, one pistol aimed and ready.

“Yep, hear confusion as their badges don’t open it.” Faith got ready at the side of the door, with her pistol in hand.

“K, open it for them.” Xander crouched, ready for the game to begin.

Faith reached over, sliding her badge through the card reader; the door pulled open, as she tucked in deep, hiding in the corner. The men came in slowly guns at the ready, and instantly tripped over the rope stretched across the door, the men behind them tripped over the men in front.

Xander popped up and with deadly efficiently shot each man in the helmet, each one relaxing instantly as they felt the hit. “We clear?” He asked in a clear voice as he slowly came forward.

“Yep, alarm still sounding but no one else coming this way.” She replied, keeping a look out.

“Good. Sorry guys.” With that Xander shot each of them again ‘killing them’, then stripped their weapons from them, keeping one ‘rifle’ for himself, the others he tossed to Faith. “Here empty them, and give me your pistol.”

Faith tossed her pistol to him, and quickly emptied out the reservoirs of paint balls, dumping all of them carefully in one of her pockets. “K, ready.”

Xander repositioned everything, and nodded, they headed out the corridor quickly, the shoes they were wearing making almost no noise.

“Coming.” Faith whispered and they ducked into a doorway. Her superior hearing was warning them far in advance, allowing Xander to pop out and nail two more guards. He then stood and ‘killed’ them also, taking their firearms.

“Let’s go.” They headed straight to the elevators, passing rooms on the way, where you could hear people banging on the doors, yelling for attention. Reaching the elevator Xander swiped the badge, and heard it coming down, with people in it, he nodded to Faith and they slipped to either side of the elevator.

“Finally, wonder why it got stuck, come on, we need to go back up the gateroom.” Stated a airmen, moving out of the elevator with two others, they caught Xander and Faith moving out of the corner of their eyes, and went for their guns, but by that time all of them had paintball marks on their clothing. The airmen stood there with blank astonishment, as Xander ‘killed’ them all once they were ‘unconscious’ and collected the pistols.

“Good, I needed some more clips. Ready?” Looking at Faith and then grinning moving into the elevator. Inside his head a small voice was whispering out tactics and things to look for, while the hyena was all but cackling in glee and fun at the ‘death and destruction’.

Once inside hit the top button, but as soon as they were two floors up pulled the emergency button. “Up, lets go quick.” He lifted Faith up and she pushed open the hatch, and pulled herself up, then reached down to grab Xander and pulled him up also. “Okay, you go up as high as you can on the ladder, then slip in and hit the ventilation system, I will follow and clear the way to the surface elevator.” (Note I am taking liberties with the layout of Cheyenne Mountain as I don’t have the real schematics)

Faith nodded, and started to move up the ladder with a speed Xander could only envy. ~hey at least I get to watch her ass for a moment~ A wry smile appeared, then he started to move up the ladder also, moving much more slowly than the Slayer.

Sam had been moving slow as she had been in the middle of finishing some project notes when the alarm went off. She had missed the briefing, knowing for the most part she would have little to do, this was mostly a Cameron and Teal’c gig, but she wanted to see how they performed. So she quickly hit save when the alarm went off, and went to grab her paint pistol, she had grabbed it earlier when she realized she needed to miss the briefing, and her jacket and was about to head out the door, when every computer in her office flashed and a message appeared on the screen “Access Denied”.

“What the hell?” Suddenly worried this wasn’t part of the drill she grabbed a keyboard and typed in some commands. After she hit enter the computer thought for a few seconds then a message popped up “Sorry until this exercise is over, no one but Xander gets in.” A wave of relief that it was not a real problem washed over her, along with another wave of anger and confusion. Sam picked up the radio. “Sir, this is Colonel Carter.” v“Yes Colonel?” The General’s voice came back calmly, the alarms barely audible from where he was.

“We just lost access to the computer systems, and from the message Xander caused it, so while the computers aren’t ours anymore, I don’t think they have been damaged, though he might be when I get ahold of him.”

She could almost hear the General’s surprise as his voice filtered down the line, “I see. That was more resourceful than I expected, we will find out how in the briefing, for now see if you can get them back under our control.”

“Yes Sir.” Sam sat back down and started typing, quickly gaining respect for the protocols keeping her out of her own system.

Faith went up above the door she wanted, hanging with her legs wrapped around supports, pulling out three paint balls. She hung above the door, and carefully pulled it open, making barely any noise. She kept pulling until it had opened about three inches, then, not hearing anything, slowly lowered herself to look through the crack. There standing about 5 feet away, talking idly were two airmen talking idly, the whirring alarm having covered any noise she might have made.

“You think they will make it out of the gateroom?”

“Nah.. I mean we have guards all over the place, and we know this place better than anyone else, I just hope Faith isn’t too disappointed by losing.” Grinned a young male airman in reply.

“Yeah.. she is very hot.” Agreed the other airman.

Faith pulled open the door more, then “splat, splat!” Faith threw two paint balls hard and fast at the two airmen, hitting them solidly in the back. They both froze then looked at each other. “We just got shot didn’t we?”

“You sure did boys.” Replied Faith, pulling open the doors the rest of the way, and jumping in. She held two more paint balls in her hand and quickly ‘killed’ both of them. “But thanks for the compliment, and I won’t be too upset when I win.”

They both blushed and arranged their ‘dead’ bodies against the wall, waiting to see what would happen from here.

Faith slipped back into Slay mode and check out the hall, then turned a corner and disappeared from their view. Once she was out of their sight, she quickly found a vent cover, she jumped up, and pulled it off, then tied her rope to it, and jumping up grabbed the edge and pulled herself up, and as they had hoped found herself in industrial size HVAC system. Faith smiled wickedly, and pulled the vent cover back up after her, jamming it in place. ~hmm.. not perfect but unless someone is looking for it, they won’t see it.~ “Alfred – in place, moving towards the surface elevator, two dead at entry to your point”

Xander heard that as he was reaching the top of the shaft. Pausing he took a breath, ladder climbing for 15 stories was hard work. “Alfred – understood, moving in.”

Faith nodded to herself. “Bruce” And then started moving forward, the industrial size letting her move quickly, though she quickly wished they had brought knee pads. Following voices, she moved down the hall to where she could easily hear the people talking. Carefully, using her strength, she bent the panel so she could pull it up, not dropping it down. She waited frozen, listening so carefully to see if there was any change in the talking patterns. But other than the occasional radio message of “all clear” it was silent. Carefully, she lowered her head peering down the hall. Four airmen were standing near the elevator, the only way to the surface, but they were scanning and the flashing red lights made it hard to see her head sticking out of the ceiling. She pulled her head back up and put the vent back, then moving slowly, she went down the vent to towards the elevator, stopping at the vent right above them.

Cursing slightly under her breath she backed up a bit. “Alfred – they’re in front of the doors, if you’re in position I can get the drop on them, but I risk getting nailed. Can you take advantage of my surprise?”

“Alfred – yea, gimme a minute and I can turn the corner and nail them when you distract them, come out fists flying and we should be good.”

“Got it.” Faith very carefully, pulling on the vent in time with the whining of the alarm, finally got it all out. She took a deep breath and positioned herself, so she could drop feet first and nail at least two of them in the first move and hope Xander got them before they could aim. “Ready.”

Xander had been moving down the vacant halls, still snickering when he heard someone pounding on a door. He got in a prone position, so that when he heard her hit, he could roll out and shoot them, being prone made targeting on him much harder for them. Taking a deep breath “go.” He waited focusing on the men talking at the end of the hall.

Faith heard the whispered go from the amulet, and jumped out feet first with a loud screech. The men jerked startled, but by that time her feet were hitting them. At the screech Xander rolled and aimed, hitting the first one as he was turning aiming his gun. The two Faith hit were down in surprise, she was not pulling any punches, and moving so fast they could barely register. The third airman was trying to get a message out on the radio moving away from Faith, but Xander hit him also, the dull thud on his chest causing him to pause and look down. Faith had one with the wind knocked out of him from her initial attack, and the other warding off her blows, scrambling backwards. Xander shot the one trying to get back up, then yelled out. “The others are all unconscious.” Faith lashed out, and shoved the airmen backwards and Xander shot him as soon as he was clear. In less than a minute the four were ‘unconscious’ and staring at them in surprise.

Faith grinned at them. “Hi guys… we will take the elevator key now.” Holding out her hand. The ranking airman sighed pulling the keys from around his neck.

“You two are scary, you know that right?” He asked with a sigh.

“Why thank you for the compliment.” Faith smiled, turning to Xander.

Xander grinned, the patch making more sinister than he probably intended to. “Sorry guys, but you are all dead.” And shot each of them again. They sighed and went over to the wall to sit down. Xander and Faith laughed and headed to the external elevator, getting in and letting the doors shut. Xander reached over and shut it off a moment later.

Xander leaned back against the door with a big sigh. “Well last hurdle ahead, think we can pull it off?”

Faith sighed and shrugged “Who knows, but if we die, we die well.”

Xander snorted, “Today is a good day to die?”

“Exactly!” Faith grinned at him in reply.

“Okay NEITHER of us are Worf, nor are we Klingons, and it is NEVER a good day to die.” Xander replied with a mock growl, “So lets win, and show them what two Scoobies can do.”

Faith blinked “You mean one Scoobie.”

“Nope… I mean two. You became a Scoobie that day in Sunnyhell. Welcome to the club Faith Revere.” Xander grinned and straightened up. “We have an invasion to win, so lets go up and out.

Laughing Faith jumped up, and they went up through the roof of the elevator again.

This elevator opened into a large open area, from which you walked out the tunnel to the outside. General Landry was stationed outside, and there were a large number of men between the opening of the elevator and that goal. However, without overwhelming numbers or a lot of cannon fodder to spend, that was not the best way to their goal. Instead they were taking the round about way out of the mountain. The air vents had to pull air in from the out side, as manufacturing air was still a difficult proposition. Their plan was to work up and out, while confusing people as much as possible.

Xander reached over and hit the button for the top floor, then walked over to the hatch. Faith reached down for Xander and pulled him up, as the car began to move. They closed and secured the hatch, trying to make it look like an empty car. They positioned themselves to either side of the car, where the two sets of ladders ran up the shaft. The second the car came to a halt, they were up the ladders and moving as quietly and quickly as they could, their goals the large vent at the top of the shaft.

Cameron and Teal’c turned when the elevator door dinged, and everyone braced themselves, guns up and pointed as the doors slide open, to reveal an empty car. Cameron got on the radio. “Station two report.” No one responded. “Station Two report.” Again just silence. “All stations report in order.”

A long moment of silence then “Station Five here.” There was another long moment of silence. “Station eight here.” No one else responded. Cameron moved over to the map that showed the layout of the building.

“Look, the only two that reported are those that guarded side exits, all the ones in the main corridors or in front of elevators are silent. Station Two was guarding this elevator, and you have to come through this one or the freight one that Station Five is still guarding. So is the elevator a distraction? Suddenly I am very glad this is just an exercise and not real, having a bomb in that elevator would have hurt.”

Teal’c listened to this and nodded slowly, thinking through how he would act trying to infiltrate a base, but while he knew there was something more about that elevator, he did not have enough knowledge of Earth construction to figure it out.

Cameron froze then ran to the elevator, “Airmen with me.” By this time five minutes had passed. By the time he reach the elevator, got the hatch open and had someone boost him up to the top of the car, he could see and hear nothing in the shaft, except his own breathing. “Get me a Flashlight!”

“They’re coming.” Faith whispered, as she slid into the vent. It had taken her two precious minutes to get the cover open, minutes that Xander had used to get up next to her. This was the worst part of the timing, they could probably win from this point, but they would rather have no one know where they were at all.

“Okay. Move.” Moving fast and quietly Faith slipped into the vent, sliding back quickly so she was out of Xanders’ way. He moved in after her, and got the covering closed just as he heard someone climbing up through the hatch. He heard someone yell for a flashlight, but already they were moving back and up, towards the service. “We need to go quickly, if they figure it out, they might have soldiers waiting at the vent opening.”

“Got it.” Faith moved through the vent, leaving Xander behind, trying to crawl as fast as she could, face glowing with excitement. With in two minutes she was up at the top, and could see the daylight streaming through. She paused and listened carefully, but heard nothing. She pushed at the grate, but it was locked on, a slight nod to herself, and she braced herself in the sloping vent, using her arms to try and lock herself into place, almost upside down, her feet above her head. Taking a deep breath she kicked hard, at the corner of the grate where it was locked. It clanged noisily and she cringed but simply kicked again as hard as she could. Three times, and finally it gave before her strength. She swarmed up and through the opening, turning and scouring the area to see if anyone was there, waiting for them. The area was empty, so she waited until she heard Xander coming up, then reached down to pull him up. “We good?” Was his first question. Faith nodded still looking around. “Good… lets go capture us a General.” Xander’s grin was wicked as they trotted off to find the General. Both of them were scraped and bloody from the climb up the shaft, but the glow of achievement radiated off of both of them.

The capture of the general was almost anti-climatic as every had their attention on the entrance to the mountain, so when Xander slipped up behind the General and whispered “Gotcha” in his ear, the shock caused some funny reactions.

After everyone was cleaned up, all the participants meet in the briefing room, the General looking at a stack of notes various officers had given him. Xander and Faith both took their seats, blushing and smirking at bit at the general teasing and compliments they were getting from the base personnel. Though Xander did notice Sam was not smiling and looked a bit pissed. He reached into his pocket and checked that the other CD was there and nodded, she might flay him alive… but he was pretty sure she would not kill him.

The general cleared his throat a bit and everyone settled down. “We obviously you two won the exercise, but I do have some questions and would like some clarifications. First, and I know Colonel Carter would like the answer to that.”

Xander stood up, this was the one area he had been worried about, but mentally shrugged ~any advantage is one you use in time of war~ his mind whispered to him. Xander place the small CD on the table in front of Colonel Carter. “I loaded this.” Then he placed the second CD on the table. “This is a full explanation of what it did and how. But basically I contacted a friend of mine and asked if a program could be created that would lock out all access to a system except by answering certain questions correctly, yet know nothing about the system that was being locked out. Took a month, but this is what was created. It basically surrounds the system in a bubble that nothing can get into, unless you answer the questions or have that disk.” Pointing to the one he laid down first. Xander paused and waited, knowing Colonel Carter was going to flay him open.

“Xander, I tried to get in and all I got were messages that stated something along the lines of I won’t talk to anyone but you. I never got any password requests.” Her voice was harsh yet filled with curiosity.

“Oh.. that… I .. um.. assume you were trying to hack in or get in the back door?” She nodded at that and Xander shrugged. “Most people know computers are not my thing, so it would never occur to me to try that, so anyone trying to get in that way was immediately locked out. If you had just hit enter twice a password request would have popped up.”

Sam sat back looking at Xander a bit amused, it had never occurred to her. “I see…. My next question is who wrote this, it is rather impressive since I built the system and could not get in.”

Xander swallowed “Well.. I was told to tell you that the name that use to be used in hacker circles was WredTree.” He wrote it out so they could see it.

Sam blinked in surprise. “You know WredTree? Damn in the early 90’s that hacker got into some places they were not suppose to go, but never did any damage just pulled info, no one ever seemed to know who they were and they were never caught to my knowledge, just reports of seeing their activity were less and less, finally disappearing about two years ago.”

“Yeah.. well that is why it took two weeks to write, apparently hackers skills need to be used or you lose them.” Xander shrugged, he had put his faith in Willow and she had come true.

“Everything is back to where it was, and you won’t find any trace of the program, but there are your copies.”

“You do realize I will want to talk to this person once I finish going over this, if nothing else to figure out how to prevent anything like this from happening again.”

Xander paled but shrugged “If you really want to, but you might not like that visit.”

Sam nodded sharply then turned to the General and nodded. “Since there was no damage, nothing was accessed, and we told him he was the enemy I can’t really say he went outside the scope, we just never thought since he or Faith had skills like that the computers were at risk.”

“I see… well then there won’t be any repercussions this time, but try to not mess up the computers, people get upset.” Giving Xander and Faith an evil glare, though both of them personally thought it had nothing on Giles glares. “Moving on. Everyone was very impressed by how you moved through the base, and we are going to be adding more security to those passages to prevent anyone else from utilizing them. We are confused as to why you chose the method you did, and some of the shots that were made, our ballistics people tell us bullets don’t move like that.”

Xander smiled “Simple, everyone here knows Faith is an awful shot, but they never thought about the fact that paint balls can be thrown. They assumed they would have warning when she tried to hit them. But throwing them with her strength and speed allowed some non-traditional trajectories. Also her speed and strength is well known, and you counted on having to over come her strength with high staffing levels. We circumvented that with the computers, and locking all the doors. I am known to not be too computer literate, so it never occurred to anyone we would take out the computers. Bottom line SGC made assumptions about our abilities and we turned them on you.”

There was a soft snort of laughter from Daniel and Cameron, and a soft mutter about the computer system from Sam. The General tried not to smile, but it crept in. “Good job, and obviously we need to be a bit more adaptable when we think we know everything. There are a few more questions. When personnel were rallying on the lower levels, we noticed that everyone was ‘dead’. Why did you kill everyone you left behind?” The General was honestly a bit confused, as were some other people, however Xander saw a nod of approval from Teal’c and resigned understanding from Cameron. Daniel however was absolutely stoic in his appearance, the bit of humor on his face being wiped away.

Xander looked straight at the General. “Sir, we were in enemy territory, aiming for a goal. We had no escape, and if caught we would possibly be tortured or killed. We could not afford to have anyone behind us that might possibly hurt us, or give information away about our movements. The only enemy I can trust in the short term is a dead one. In a real situation I would have vaporized everyone we hit, because even the method in which we killed would give away information that we might not want our enemies to have. The scenario was an enemy based one, we would not proceed the same way in friendly or neutral territory, but I… we learned a long time ago, the dead can rise and kill you.” Xander explained all this in a simple but neutral tone, and Faith added my nodding fervently at the last bit.

“Xander is correct.” Teal’c spoke up unexpectedly. “A Gou’ald would never leave anyone alive behind, they did not intend to make a slave or use in some way. The Tau’ri have shown they are soft in how they leave so many living behind. It might be part of why the Jaffa counsel is not taking the Tau’ri seriously. After all you all your enemies to live.”

The General and Daniel both looked surprised at that, and Daniel suddenly very thoughtful. “I see.” Replied the General looking at his notes. “Overall your performance was impressive, if less violent than we were expecting, and that in itself is a nice surprise, as there were bets on how many bones Faith broke, no one had zero surprisingly enough.” Scattered laughter answered that and the meeting broke up, with everyone in a good mood.

Faith and Xander were waiting for Cameron outside his quarters. “So… when do we get our ride in a 302?” Faith asked with Xander standing behind her grinning as Cameron began to stammer remembering the bet, and wondering how he was going to talk Sam into this.

Chapter 10

Xander looked around him in glee. A large chunk of his first two paychecks had gone into this, but as far as he was concerned he was in heaven. A 36” flat panel TV was on the wall, underneath it was an X-box 360, and a decent speaker system, hooked up to the TV and stereo. He had decided not to waste his money on high-end speakers, because here he could never crank it up all the way, anyhow, so that was a waste of money. They had passed the security checks, so they could have lived off base, but both Faith and he decided it was not worth the hassle, and this way they had more money to save and spend.

Unknown to anyone but Giles, Xander was still sending back about five hundred a month to Cleveland to help with expenses. Council money was still locked up and a bunch of teenage girls had limited understanding of the reality of bills, so Xander was again quietly helping. Though part of the exchange of this was that Giles had reluctantly agreed to meet with Daniel and Xander some evening at Daniel’s house off base and answer questions. Xander did not know if he was looking forward to or dreading that meeting. But that was neither here nor there; tonight he was going to introduce Teal’c to the wonder that was video games. He checked the microwave popcorn, chips, and dip, as well as the secret Twinkie stash, and decided it was ready to go, and looked at the clock just as there was a knock on the door.

Shaking his head he opened the door “Right on time Teal’c to the second almost. Come on in.”

Teal’c nodded his head slightly as he walked in “You did say to be here at 6 o’clock did you not?”

Xander snickered a bit. “That I did, come in, junk food is at the ready and games are to be played.”

“You have spoken often of this X-box and Video game that you would like me to try. My curiosity has been awoken.” Replied Teal’c solemnly looking around the room.

“Oh yeah.. just wait until you try Halo, it rocks!” replied Xander letting the door swing shut.

“Very well, let us see if Halo rocks as you say.” Teal’c responded as he settled into one of the two game rockers on the floor in front of the TV. Xander handed him a controller and settled down in the other with his controller in his hands.

"There will be a tutorial first to show you how to use the controller, k?”

“Indeed Xander that sounds wise, you should always understand your weapons before you use them.” Pointing the controller at the TV like a weapon.

“Uh… you do know that is not a weapon right? It just makes your person do what you want them to do.” Replied Xander frowning a bit.

Teal’c thought for a moment “Ah.. it is one of your remotes, similar to that which they use with the MALP. I understand.” He leaned back holding the controller in a more relaxed manner.

Xander nodded “Exactly… so here we go.” Hitting start on the X-box and letting the intro story come up.

Teal’c watched the intro with bemused interest. “Xander why are we not using those ships against the Goa’uld?”

“huh?… oh those don’t really exist, they are.. um.. story ships.”

“That is too bad, they would be excellent weapons against the Ori and the Goa’uld.”

When they got to the character part Teal’c was the green MasterChief and Xander was the red. Teal’c followed Xanders' instructions for navigating through the game with confusion. Teal’c jumped when the control first vibrated in his hand.

“This is not a good training tool, weapons do not work like this, a staff is much more convenient and easier to aim.”

“Training? Nah this is just for fun.” Replied Xander nailing a few attackers.

“Fun… I see.” As they ran through the ship in the opening sequence Teal’c was fighting to shoot the Covenant monsters, eyes narrowed in focus, when suddenly there was this crack, and Xander looked over to see both of the thumb sticks had snapped.

Xander looked at the broken controller and sighed mournfully. “Okay, obviously no first persons for you.. and I guess I have to buy extra controllers if I am going to have a chance to play with anyone… how about Hockey?”

~~~~~

Xander was walking down the hall when Dr. Lam caught up with him. “Xander, how are you? I have been wanting to talk to you.”

Xander grinned at the pretty doctor. “Sure Doc, what is up? Need to get more blood from me?” With a wry smile at the doctor's penchant for tests.

Dr. Lam laughed a little. “No not this time, but before you leave for you next trip, you know I will.”

“Yeesh and I called the guys I fought vampires, they got nothing on you.” Grinning at her in a teasing manner.

Dr. Lam rolled her eyes. Since Xander had proved vampires were real, she had gotten more than a little bit of teasing in regards to her penchant for getting blood samples. “That maybe.” She replied with good grace. “But actually I wanted to talk to you about some options you have available.”

Xander frowned not really sure what she was talking about. “Options?”

“Well yes, there is more than the basic glass anymore, you can get some inserts that will record information for you, we may even be able to regenerate some of the nerves and some technology might give you some level of vision again.”

Xander stopped and looked at her. “Doc… are you talking about my eye?”

She paused, stopping with him. “Well.. yes or your lack thereof.”

A sad smile crossed Xanders’ face. “Doc, have you ever had a tattoo or something?”

Dr. Lam frowned “No never saw the reason for it, why?”

“Most people get tattoos to memorialize someone, something, a feeling, a moment in time. This scar.” Pointing to his eye. “This lack of an appendage is that for me.”

She shook her head. “I don’t understand, most tattoos you can remove, or are attractive in some way, this is a liability even a disfigurement.” Meaning no insult, just being herself.

“Maybe.” Nodded Xander, as he started walking again slowly. “But it is a representation of something. When I got this, we were in a fight that gone on for days. I lost an eye in that fight, others lost more. We lost people, my ex-fiancée died fighting to save everything. For me it is a reminder of the price I paid and the people who died so that this was all I lost. I don’t regard it as disfigurement but instead a badge of honor, for surviving and for the people who died so that others could live. I have no desire to ever ‘fix’ this.” He looked at her for a long moment, and Dr. Lam shivered. His dark brown eye saw through everything and for a long strange moment she felt like she should apologize for ever wanting to remove that mark from him. Then he smiled and the feeling faded. “But thanks, I know it makes it harder to pick up chicks, but got my eye on one that I think might not mind.” Flashing a final smile at her he turned down a hall and disappeared.

Carolyn stood there for a long moment mulling over what she said. Frowning a bit she headed back to her office. Once there she looked for a long time at the file for one Alexander Lavelle Harris. Then she calmly took out all the brochures and research on prosthetic eyes and dumped them in the trash and put the file away, a small smile on her face.

~~~~~

“Well its nice to see you back here Sam, always though this place suited you best.” Drawled a voice from the doorway of Sam’s lab.

Sam looked up with a grin. “Jack! I mean sir, how are you?”

“Oh gawd, quit with the sir'ing, not here as that, just a friend.” Sniped Jack as he entered the room, coming over to give Sam a fierce hug, which she returned.

“So what brings you here?” Asked Sam leaning back and looking at him.

“Eh…” Shrugged Jack. “Just a nagging feeling that I should show up and I suspect Thor will pop in while I am here. But I figured it was a good excuse to see you, Danny, and Teal’c. That and check out your new ‘victims’ you have recruited.” He stated with a grin.

“Victims my ass.” Sam snorted. “Those two are deadly, smart, and have more tricks up their sleeves than a stage magician. Though I do have to tell you about what one of Xanders’ friends did to Anise …. Well how ‘bout I show you.” Sam turned to her computer and with a few clicks on the computer pulled up one of most popular video clips the SGC had, Willow making Anise be quiet. She showed it to Jack who within minutes was rolling on the floor laughing so hard tears were streaking his face. When the clip was over, he sat there holding his stomach.

“That was hilarious, so did you find out what device she used to do that? I could use it at some of the meetings I get roped into.” Jack a bit surprised when Sam’s face darkened.

“Believe me sir, I wish there was one. Per her and everyone who Xander has introduced us to, it was…” she sighed. “Magic sir.”

Jack started laughing again, “Oh please Sam, like I am going to fall for that.”

An exasperated shrug from her. “That is what they call it, and from what I saw she has no device, no limit to what she can do, so who knows.”

Sam shrugged and gave Jack a push out the door. “I have decided to not think about it, because if I do my evil scientist side might come out and Xander and his friends would find themselves strapped to a table with me cackling over them.” Herding Jack down the hall.

“Okay, that I can understand. I don’t like your evil scientist side. So … um.. where are we going?”

“Well you asked about Teal’c and I think he’s with Xander and his new toy.”

“Toy what toy?”

“An X-box and something about NHL hockey.” Shrugged Sam heading down the hall.

“Hockey! All right. What’s an X-box?”

Sam rolled her eyes at him. “A video game system.”

“Oh.. so what does that have to do with hockey?”

Sam shrugged “You’re asking me?” She stopped before a door and knocked. “Ask them.”

A voice yelled out “COME IN!” and Sam pushed open the door to reveal three people. A young girl on the bed sharpening some knives while watching Teal’c and another young man with shaggy black hair, sitting in front of a TV obviously playing some sort of hockey game.

“Teal’c you have a visitor.” Sam announced.

“Yeah, yeah give us a minute, it is fourth quarter and 45 seconds left to go… and we are bloody well tied. Damn I am sounding like Giles again.” Responded the young man, fiercely focused on the TV and game.

The woman looked up flashing a smile at Sam, who returned it, and frowned a bit looking at Jack for a long moment, then shrugged and returned to watching and sharpening her many knives. “I see.. damn you have Mario on your team.. hell and Gretsky, kiddo you are dead.” Stated Jack, quickly seeing the gist of the game, his voice distracted Teal’c and he looked up at Jack.

“General O’Neill?!” In the moment Teal’c looked away Xander scored.

“YES!!! And you lose.” Grinned Xander. Teal’c looked back at the screen confused, then sighed.

“Indeed my distraction was your assistance, congratulations Xander.” Teal’c intoned standing up to shake Jack’s hand. “It is good to see you O’Neill.”

“I see having youngsters around has corrupted you, but at least you have good taste in hockey players.” Teased Jack, smiling at the other two.

“Xander allowed me to pick first and I chose the names you have mentioned often in the past.” Replied Teal’c nodding his head slightly.

“Hey I have to be a little nice, but he is getting the hang of the game.” Xander stuck his hand out. “I’m Xander.”

Jack took the hand and shook it, noting the firm grip and calluses. “Jack, so how’d you lose the eye?” in a matter of fact tone. Sam flinched a little and Faith just rolled her eyes.

“Evil Preacher put his thumb in it in one of those I am going to destroy the world rants. You know how it goes.” Deadpanned back Xander not even cracking a smile.

“Yeah, why do they always have to describe all their plans in detail, only good point is it gives you time to shoot them before you die of boredom.” Replied Jack, then both he and Xander grinned.

Teal’c turned to the girl on the bed. “O’Neill this is SlayerFaith.”

The girl sighed “I swear I have told him at least a thousand times, just Faith, but he just smiles and keeps up with it. Nice ta’metcha.” Not setting down the knives.

Jack blinked at her for a moment, then nodded. “Good to meet you too kiddo. So I hear you two are going off world soon?”

Faith had frozen looking at him, mind racing furiously while she chewed on her lip. “Jack…. Jack O’Neill?” Jack had turned to look at her, a puzzled look on his face.

~flashback 1982~

Jack, a newly promoted Major was out at various colleges doing talks about being pilot in today’s air force, rather than staying at icky hotels while he was in Boston he was crashing with his cousin Holly for the two week stay.

Holly was a volunteer at the local women’s shelter and her project this summer was a young girl with an eight-year-old daughter. Jack had of course been talked into child-sitting while Holly was taking the mom to AA meetings and job interviews.

“Jack, we are going out, please don’t lose yourself to the hockey game, Faith is a bit too active to do that. Jack do you hear me?”

“5x5 Holly, I got it, baby sitting duties. 5x5.” Jack turned and looked at the little girl, long dark hair and big eyes. “What say you and I go to the park kiddo? You want to do that?”

The little girl grinned. “5x5 Jacky, 5x5.”

Jack laughed picking her up. “You are going to be quite the spitfire when you grow up aren’t you?”

“5x5! 5x5!” She said happy and grinning at having someone actually pay attention to her.

~end flash back~

“You were Holly’s friend, I called you Jacky, and you.. YOU taught me 5x5.” Exclaimed Faith standing up.

Jack looked stunned. “You.. you are little Faith, the one I watched? Wow… did you ever grow up.

Faith launched herself at Jack, who found a slayer in his arms, and not knowing what else to really do, he hugged her back. Faith whispered in his ear softly “Thank you, you made the years that came after much easier, remembering that a stranger took the time to care, let me not follow my mom down into the hell she created. Thank you.”

Then she pulled back and was grinning at Xander. “Well the mystery of 5x5 is solved, and for once it was not a bad thing.”

Xander sighed “Figures, secret military operation and one of the people there is a long lost uncle… yeesh our lives and destiny.. if Anya was still around I would be worried about now.” Walking over to hug Faith quickly.

Jack shook his head “Well now all we need is the announcement that Thor is…”

Overhead a voice squawked, “General O’Neil, Colonel Carter, Xander Harris, Faith Revere, Daniel Jackson and Teal’c are requested to meet General Landry in the briefing room.”

Xander glared at him, “You had to say it didn’t you.. you just had to say it.”

General Landry was standing in the conference room looking rather unsure of himself, a strange look on the normally self-confident general. A small grayish alien was standing next to him, blinking slowly looking at pictures of the various SGC teams.

Jack wandered towards the conference room, not in a great hurry; Sam and Teal’c followed, with Xander and Faith following, talking and joking a bit. Jack shook his head as he walked in the room and saw the uncomfortable General and Thor.

“Thor, how are ya doing buddy?”

Thor nodded his head. “I am well O’Neill. I had hoped I mi...” Thor trailed off, and began to blink rapidly as he looked at Xander who had just walked in the room.

“Hmm.. what do you know the Roswell aliens exist, damn, and here I thought Dannyboy was kidding.” Remarked Faith staring at Thor with fascination.

“Uh.. guys, general like people, why is the little grey guy standing there blinking at me?” Xander looked at himself then back at the alien, who was blinking even faster.

Jack and Hank both looked at each other, then Thor, and Jack asked “Thor buddy, what’s up with all the excitement?”

Faith snickered whispering to Sam, “That is excitement?”

Sam whispered back, watching just as curious as everyone else “For him it is the equivalent of yelling and running around the room.”

Thor beamed out of the room, then back in holding a device that he pointed at Xander, it beeped and burbled for a moment then stopped and Thor looked at him, blinking even faster. “You have a perceiver, one of Grimnirs line.” Thor spoke in a hushed voice, and all of them looked at him confused.

Everyone in the room looked confused, Daniel, who might have understood, had not shown up yet, so Jack looked at a very confused Xander and glared at Thor. “Okay Thor explain.”

Thor paused for a moment then spoke, “Back when my people were here Loki, I, and Hemindall were all active on the earth while Odin was here too. There was a human named Grimnir who associated with us on a regular basis, especially Odin, helping him research and attempting to learn all he could to help his people. Loki in a display of his normal twisted sense of humor encouraged him to sacrifice his eye for wisdom, ancients knowledge. Grimnir became a little insane, and we were not happy with Loki, as usual. In recompense he attached the knowledge to Grimnirs genes, so it would be passed onto his children. What we did not realize until many generations had passed was that for the majority of the descendants unless they also paid the price of the loss of an eye that knowledge would not awaken. He has paid it and has Grimnirs blood in his past. He has the knowledge in him and can see truth in all forms. We had not realized any with his blood still remained, Grimnir was not very prolific while he was on earth.”

That was by far one of the longest speeches anyone in the room had heard an Asgard make. Xander was looking at Thor with a look of wry acceptance. “So you’re telling me, that I have knowledge because my eye got poked out, and some ancestor of mine fell prey to a bad practical joke?”

Thor took a moment to process what Xander had said, then nodded. “Yes. You will find more and more things you just know and will be able to see what others cannot. You may find an affinity with ravens, Grimnir always claimed he could see through their eyes, and knew what they knew, and could prove it, but it was a long time ago.”

Xander just shook his head looking at all this. “And to think I was tired of vampires, next time I complain about being bored, just remind me of who I am.” He sat down in a chair with a wry smile. Faith sat down next to him, and underneath the table where no one could see gave his hand a quick squeeze.

Jack sighed “And people wonder why my hair turned grey, Hank so glad this is your mess not mine. Thor what did you actually need?”

Thor blinked then looked at Jack. “Ah yes, I have come to ask if …” The conversation quickly devolved into a request for some personnel in regards to an experiment slash expedition they wanted to carry out, but needed some help with, both Jack and Hank looked at each other, sighing and started to figure out who they could lose or use. One of the requests involved getting Heimdall back, and substituting Thavsir on the Daedaules, all of which took time. Everyone else quickly drifted out of the room, with Sam and Teal’c intercepting Daniel who had been translating with headphones on and had not heard the announcement. Xander and Faith headed back to his room, Xander’s mind still whirling with the consequences.

As they reached his door Xander stopped. “Faith…wanna come in for a little bit, I want to talk to you about something.”

A lightening grin “Talk hmm? That’s what they all say.” As she headed in the door, curling up on one of the rockers.

Xander followed her in with an attempt at humor “Oh I might try something, if I wasn’t sure you would snap me in half.”

Faith stopped for a moment and her smile faded, looking at Xander earnestly. “Try sometime, you might be surprised.”

Xander closed his eye for a moment trying to fight down hope, and forced a smile. “Maybe.. but.. um.. wanted to talk to you about Hyena and Solider.”

Faith sighed, she had kinda hoped he might make a move, but…”Who?”

“Hyena and Solider.” Xander repeated laying on his stomach on the bed, looking at her.

“Who are they?” Faith asked shrugging a little.

“The spirits that live inside me.”

Chapter 11

Faith looked at him, and then violently wiggled her finger in her ear. “Okay I thought I just hear you say something about spirits inside you?”

“Yep.. that is what I said.” Replied Xander, trying to not fidget, as such he was unprepared for Faith standing up, grabbing him, and pulling him down on the bed with her.

“Okay Mister, spill, what the hell are you talking about?”

A deep breath “How much do you know about my Hyena and Solider possessions?”

Faith blinked “Umm.. nothing really, at least not that springs to mind.”

“Hmm.. would have thought someone had ratted me out to you. Oh well… my sophomore year, during a trip to the zoo, I and some other kids were possessed by hyena spirits, I got lucky and got the pack leader, a female. Eventually they cast them out of us, but mine never completely left, but slowly faded. Then at Halloween one year, a chaos mage, an old friend of Giles, cast a spell that made us into what our costumes were. Buffy became a 17th century noblewoman, Willow a ghost, and I became a solider. When the spell was broken, they lost most of it, but I never really did, it just kinda faded.”

Faith nodded slowly listening to him. “Okay.. but it sounds like it was a long time ago and they faded out.”

“Yeah.. and that is what I thought. Until lately. Once we got away from the Sunnydale I started noticing things, nothing major just my reactions were a bit faster, I could hear a little better, knew odd things. But really I chalked most of it up to just not being on the Hellmouth. But after what Thor said, I started thinking. I think they started coming back, more developed and more intense after Caleb took my eye. Then getting off the Hellmouth removed any dampening effect. So I’ve been thinking about it, and trying to remember stuff Anya talked about and all those books we read during research parties. I know Thor said I was related to Grimnir.. who was a human, but over time I think people mixed him up with Odin? Well the myths say he had two ravens, you know what Thor mentioned, and they were called.. um. Oh yeah. Hugin and Munin, thought and memory. And.. well…. I am beginning to wonder if the Solider and Hyena are my versions. Cause trust me, they are there with their own personalities and ideas of what I should do.” Xander sighed after this long rambling speech and looked at Faith not sure what he would see on her face.

Faith was frowning and thinking. While she was not at Willow’s level, all the training and studying with Sam had taught her how to think, and she was finding she rather enjoyed logic puzzles and figuring things out. “Okay, I can accept they are there and have their own goals. While creepy I will grant, what exactly are you asking?”

Xander shrugged and flopped down on the pillows. “I guess I am trying to figure out if I should tell the people here, or just keep it my little secret and work out a balance between the three of them… and.. well.. I wanted to make sure you were okay with it, cause well… “ Xander pulled his pillow over his head and muttered into it.

“Huh? Xander I did not get that last part.” Pulling the pillow away from him.

He muttered again, but this time a bit louder. “theyreallylikeyou”

A slow smile spread across Faith’s face. “They really like me hmm? And how about you?”

Xander kept his arm covering his face “I always liked you, even when I was mad at and scared of you.” His voice low. “I just.. don’t want to rush.. and make another mistake with you. So… friends for now… until you decide you want more.”

Faith was stunned she did not know what to say, usually guys only wanted sex and cared about nothing else, but Xander wanted her to decide when… she just looked at him stunned.

Xander misinterpreting what the look meant, changed the subject. “So what do you think tell the brass about my visitors or keep mum?”

Faith struggled to get her mind back on track, ~oh yeah.. spirits in head~ “Well.. why don’t you talk to Daniel? He said he was ascended once right? So he might have a broader view of this type of stuff than most, and know how to tell the brass.”

Xander thought about it and nodded. “Sounds good, but means I am going to go through a Giles like interrogation on everything about how it happened and everything after that.” Sighing mournfully. “oh well…. Thanks Faith.” With a quick smile he was out of the room before she could come up with anything to say to stop him.

She flopped back on the bed with a stupid smile on her face. “Xander likes me, apparently his spirits like me, and… “ The smile grew even bigger. “And.. he wants me to choose him.” Faith felt warm and safe like she hadn’t ever, she suspected she might be loved, but that would be jinxing it, so for now she was going to luxuriate in the knowledge that Xander liked her. She giggled, then clamped her hand over her mouth horrified, what if someone had heard that. So she just lay there smiling. Then she sat up and started to really laugh. She was still in his room. Figuring he probably went to hide in the cafeteria, she followed, more than willing to let this evolve slowly.

The familiar whooshing sound of the Gate echoed through the room. Xander nervously patted his pockets, internally reviewing everything, and then followed Teal’c, who strode calmly through, into the ring, and Faith who all but danced through. They were going to visit a world that the Ori had converted, but not until about fifty percent of the population had died fighting them. This world had been chosen to research because the gate was far from any population center. They were all in local style clothing, which meant no comforting rifle in his hand, much to Xanders' discomfort. But they all had weapons stashed about their person, and this was to be a simple information gathering trip, not an attempt to do anything.

Once they were through the gate Xander stopped, not sure what was wrong. The area around the gate looked as if bombs had hit it, in fact they probably had. But something else was nagging at him, and the other two paused as he looked around. “There is something here, around the gate, but I am not sure what it is.” He frowned staring hard with his eye, until finally he saw tiny white shapes that floated and bobbed towards the gate, like dandelion sees, slowly gathering at the gate as if waiting. What was odd was some were pure white while others were tinged with grey.

“Do you guys see those?” Xander asked pointing at the air above the gate.

Teal’c and Faith both looked around but saw nothing out of the ordinary. “Nope Xan, why what you see?”

Xander shrugged. “I’m not sure, could be spots in front of my eyes, or something else. Not going to worry about it now, but will put it in the report.

Faith and Teal’c looked at him, a bit worried but nodding they kept walking towards the village. Faith was troubled by what she saw, there were very few people with smile, most just looked scared. They wandered around listening to people talk, but no one mentioned the priors or the Ori. Off to one side of town was a new building with a man standing outside with a book in his hand.

Xander jerked his head towards him. “How much you wanna bet that is the Book of Origin?” It was a rhetorical question. Teal’c nodded. “Let us go the other direction, I dislike the idea of attracting any attention of who associate with the priors.”

“Yeah, lets wander a bit more.” Xander replied. Faith was being very quiet, as she had noticed the women seemed very subdued. This trip was turning out to be much more depressing than she had supposed or expected.

They spent 6 hours, listening but saying little. A sign of the level of depression and fear was that Teal’c and Xander spent two hours in the local pub; they heard nothing about the Ori. In fact the only thing people talked about at all was the weather or crops. By the time they left Xander was seeing lots of grey tinged balls float out of the bar. Curious, he walked out and got in a position he could watch the building at the end of town. After a while he saw white balls floating out of the building and floating down towards the gate. “Very interesting.” He muttered to himself and went to join Teal’c again.

Faith in the meantime had joined the women who were watching children and working on small crafts. She joined in quietly by picking up a crying child and soothing his tears. Changing the local equivalent of a diaper. Her calm assistance soothed the women and they soon accepted her. The women talked in hushed voices, but what they said to their children gave away the most.

“Yoren, shush, the priors will take you away if you don’t follow the rules.”

“Remember Sansi, always be polite to the priors, never look directly at them, and do what they ask.”

“But mama, I don’t want to go to worship them, I don’t like them.” Pouted one little boy.

That reaction was followed by a hard slap and a harsh whisper to the child. “ NEVER say that, don’t even think it or you might die too.”

Faith would have loved to think they were making the priors into the boogey man, but the women’s haunted faces, and furtive looks over their shoulders made her think otherwise. The level of consequences dealt to the children who talked about the priors was severe, and delivered with fear for their lives.

When they met back up all of them looked drawn, and the joy and excitement of gate travel had left Xander and Faith’s demeanors. The gate opened and the glowing balls just floated there as if waiting for something. Xander looked at them frowning, making a note of how they behaved. They walked through the ring, back to the familiarity of SGC. Xander felt better just being there and he relaxed a bit.

Same, Daniel, and General Landry were waiting for them in the conference room. “Well what did you find?” Asked the General.

Everyone took seats and the General looked at the drawn faces. “Why do I think this was not a productive mission?”

Teal’c nodded. “We learned little from them, though Xander and SlayerFaith may have seen more.”

Faith glanced at both of them and began speaking. “Xander and Teal’s were in the local bar, but I decided to go hang with the women. That was… depressing. The priors are the boogey man for them, and not just threats. I saw violent punishment for talking about them, and warnings that they would die, if they crossed the priors in any way. They were not idle “be good or else” threats, the women were serious and very scared.”

No one at the table looked happy about that news. Then Xander spoke up, “Basically we saw unhappy very tightly controlled people… but I saw something else that apparently Faith and Teal’c could not see. Little balls of white or grey energy, light, or something like that. They floated so I am inclined to believe they had little substance to them. But what was really interesting is the local pub we were at, little balls of the grey tinged type floated out, but out of what we assume was the local Ori church, balls of white floated out. It was very… odd. They gathered at the gate as if waiting for something, and when we traveled through they just sat there floating.”

Sam narrowed her eyes, and thought. “That sounds odd, but if no one else saw them. Did you get a sample?”

Xander shook his head, “There was not really any way I could catch one. I did try to touch one, but my hand just passed on through it as if it wasn’t there.”

Teal’c and Faith were finishing relaying their opinions of what they saw where the overhead speakers blared out “OFFWORLD GATE ACTIVATION.”

That grabbed everyone’s attention and had them up and moving towards the gate room. By the time they got there Anise and Selmac/Jacob had walked through looking serious.

“We must talk to you immediately.” Stated Anise. “We have word that Ba’al has moved off your world and may be making alliances.” Her voice was very strident and commanding.

Landry forced a smiled, “Anise, Selmac/Jacob how nice to see you. Unfortunately right now Ba’al is the least of our concerns. The Ori and their Priors are taking over more and more worlds. My teams” gesturing to Xander, Faith and Teal’c “just returned from one planet, and the news they shared is grave.”

Anise scoffed, “What? You believe the ramblings of children and a traitor as to importance, rather than us?” Arrogant, offensive, and supercilious as always, Anise was so busy sneering at the General she did not see Faith move, or realize anything was wrong until she hit the wall behind her. One of Faiths hands at her throat, holding her up against the wall, the other hand, had Anises’ right hand in her crushing grip. Anise’s feet kicked feebly in the air, she was trying to speak, but Faiths grip was too tight.

“Ramblings?” You weren’t the one to listen to mothers warn their children to believe or they would be killed. You didn’t see women slap babies for asking why questions about the Ori, slapping them to save their lives.” At each sentence Faiths grip on Anise’s hand got tighter and tighter until bones were grinding together. “So drop the goddess role, you don’t register as human to me, ‘cause of your snake, so I have no problem killing you.” The last words were hissed and only Xander knew Faith well enough to know she was bluffing.

The guards had been frozen watching, unsure whether to stop Faith, if they could, or cheer her on. Anise was not a popular visitor. After Faith said the last words, she dropped Anise and stepped back. Anise fell to the floor gasping for air. The General spoke as Faith released her, having taken a moment to decide what to do.

“Ms. Revere! Report to your quarters at once! You are under house arrest, until I deem suitable punishment.” His voice harsh. “Airmen escort Ms. Revere to her quarters.”

“Yes Sir! The airmen responded, turning and gesturing to Faith. She winced a bit but went along quietly, her face a stiff mask.

Landry turned to Anise his manner formal and stiff. “I apologize for her behavior, it will not happen again.”

Anise rose to her feet unsteadily, still shocky from the speed and power of the attack, but her symbiote responded instead. “No General, I apologize, what was said was uncalled for. Perhaps this incident will warn Anise to not treat others so callously. If nothing else the three broken bones in her hand will remind Anise that your people are not to be treated so dismissively. For now we will work on the Ba’al issue from our end. Please let us know if there is anything we can help you with in regards to the Ori.” Both Tok’ra nodded to General Landry and left. With Anise cradling her broken hand.

General Landry watched them go, then with a slight smirk turned to Xander and Teal’c. “Could you please convey to Ms. Revere, I believe she has been suitably punished. But remind her than generally when you attack allies, you tend to piss of the brass.” With that he turned and walked out trying not to laugh.

Xander did start laughing and turned to Teal’c. “So you thing we can get the video clip of that? Wanna come with me and spring the prisoner?” Almost bouncing in amusement.

Teal’c arched an eyebrow. “Indeed, the sight of Anise cowed was most enjoyable. However, I believe I shall let you ‘spring’ SlayerFaith yourself, I need to prepare a report for the Jaffa council.” With that Teal’c turned and headed to his own quarters to write his report about the Ori. He was becoming concerned about Gerak’s view of them, and hopefully this might make him rethink his stance.

Sam and Daniel had been standing in the far corner watching this all unfold, and when Xander and Teal’c finally left, they slide to the ground in peals of laughter. Finally when they stopped laughing they looked at each other. “So.. should we email this vid clip to Jack, or make him come here to see it.” Ask Sam still chuckling.

Daniel shook his head “Nope.. tease him with it, don’t give it him, and finally offer it as a bribe for something we really want. We have the ultimate barter material.”

Both of them got up and headed to the security center to secure a copy of this clip, and see what it would cost to make sure they had the only copy.

Mouth still twitching with amusement; Xander turned and headed down the hallway to Faith’s room. Knocking on the door he waiting until he heard a faint “Come in” and pushed the door open. Faith was laying face down on the bed her head buried in the pillow. Xander frowned and walked over, and sat next to her. “Hey Faith you okay?”

Faith shook her head, not looking up and mumbled through the pillow. “I blew it, they are gonna kick me out now.”

Xander almost thought he could hear tears in her voice, and that kept him from laughing. “Not quite. The General wanted me to tell you and I quote ‘you have been suitably punished.’ And to remind you …” Smiling as Faith raise her head from the her pillow “That attacking allies tends to piss off the brass.” The look of relief that flooded Faith’s face almost broke his heart.

“Ya mean I don’t have to leave, and leave you and everyone else behind?” Almost begging for reassurance. Xander smiled softly at her and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “I don’t plan on ever leaving you behind.” He blushed and pulled back, clearing his throat. “Why um… why don’t you wash your face and then we can go get some ice cream to celebrate putting Anise in her place.”

Backing out of the room, he missed Faith touching her face and slowly smiling, “Someday Xander I am going to make up for our first time, even if it takes a lifetime.”

There is a dark space with a dimly lit area in the middle, no walls, no doors, no source of light, just darkness and light. Yet the darkness is friendly, hiding, cloaking, no menace lurking in its depths. A voice with a soft southern drawl speaks out from the dark. “So… wadda ya think, the kid’s got promise, and good choice of people to work with.”

There was an answering growl form the darkness and a raspy voice replied. “Need pack, girl good, warrior good, alpha male but not alpha. Pup need work on strengths…. Develop … mature …. mate help with that.” Breaks and pauses between the words.

The soft voice replied thoughtfully. “Ya think? I mean I like the girl, she has great legs and a rack, but never held much ‘count of women on the battlefield.” A short sharp growl answered him. “Yeah lady, I forgot that you are one. Well she’s a Slayer and has moves I wish I had, so okay. We start training the kid in earnest then. No more pussy footing around? Just… it’s got me worried, how long before the nosey ones realize we ain’t never left and try to yank us out?”

Silence from the dark, then the creepy sound of a hyenas laugh filled the darkness. The growling voice “Like see try, my home, I stay with pup, train, never leave, protect, guide… I mother.. you wise elder, he ours, they not want my rage.”

The voices owner talked into a lighted area. A battle scarred hyena female in the prime of her life. A man walked out to join her, clad in fatigues, an experienced face, dark hair with grey streaks, kneeling down beside the hyena to scratch her ears, smiling at the whimper of pleasure as she leaned into his touch.

“So they come, we kick their asses. Sounds good to me.” The man kept scratching and looked around. “Ya know we really go to get the kid trained so we can get some decorating done round here.”

Xander tossed and turned muttering softly “landscape… running plains… prey.. nice couch… cold beer.. some tv…” He rolled over nodding his head in his sleep.

Authors Note: I am so sorry this took so long. This chapter did not want to write and between being sick and work…well yeah need to find more time to write. Hope you enjoy.

Chapter 12

Xander sighed and grumbled to himself as he walked, he really wasn’t looking forward to trying to explain this to Daniel, but he really didn’t know what else to do.

~pep up kid, he’s got smarts~ Xander rolled his eye. “Okay I really don’t need comments from the peanut gallery.” Ever since the talk with Faith and the trip off world, apparently they had decided to become more vocal, and by now Xander could tell who was saying what. He had been a bit worried they might try to take over his body and speak through him like the Tok’ra did. But the response was another snort ~I ain’t solid boy, ain’t interested… we just.. here to help you… be all you can be.~ the drawl ended in gales of laughter and Xander was tempted to start beating his head on the wall.

Xander knocked on the door, which swung in a little so he stuff his head in “Daniel.. you in here?”

A muffled voice from behind a table stacked with books on and under it replied, “Yes… come in… over here Xander.”

Xander wandered over to find Daniel behind the table, pencil in mouth, digging through the books. “I know I had it here, an old transcription of some writings found in Australia.” Daniel was grumbling to himself as he kept shuffling through the various books.

Xander sighed and leaned over “You mean this one, filed in your Aboriginal people pile?” Handing Daniel a slim book.

“Oh.. yeah.. I guess that would make sense.” Daniel replied grabbing the book and flipping it open. “Ah ha.. I did remember correctly, that symbol was used to mean ‘air’ and ‘ships’ the original author translated it as ‘ships moved by air’ like sail ships, but I think it really meant ‘ships in the air’ like space ships.”

Xander knowing Daniel would get lost in his research again if he didn’t stop him now broke in. “Remember you wanted more mystical information or aspects?”

Daniel marked his place and looked up at Xander “Why is your Giles ready to come up here and meet?”

Xander laughed. “Not yet, he is still muttering about the Council, and honestly he probably is that busy. I think he almost has funding cleared up, and then his life will be easier, and he might have some free time to come out here. But that is not what I wanted to talk to you about.” Xander said uneasily, sitting down in one of the chairs.

Daniel tilted his head looking at him. “Faith isn’t pregnant is she?”

Xander choked, turned red, and stuttered “Well.. um.. hell I hope not.. 'cause.. well if she is… I mean.. last time I checked you needed to have sex… I mean for that to happen.. well.. “ Xander took a deep breath and glared at Daniel. “I doubt it, and if she was it is not mine, but I would say she gets first choice as to whom to tell, NOT me.”

Daniel sank into the chair. “Okay.. okay.. sorry… so what is up.”

It took Xander a minute to regain his train of thought and the peals of laughter in his head from the solider and the hyenas comments of ~good idea, why she not with pups~ did not help at all. “You really didn’t want to hear this did you?”

Daniel snickered a little “Well have to say that was not the reaction I was expecting, but it was funny… no go on.”

Rubbing his nose in a very Giles like manner Xander asked, “What do you know about possessions? Spiritual, not alien life form based.”

Daniel leaned back in his chair thinking, “Most of the stories are either obviously either stories, a disease, or alien. So for the most part I don’t know of any actual spirit possessions. Why do they exist?”

Xander snorted, “Short answer Yes.” Shaking his head. “I have experienced two different types.”

Daniel sat up straight in his chair, eyes gleaming “Really? What where they..” He stopped as Xander held up his hand.

“This will be easier if I just tell you then you can ask questions, okay?”

Daniel nodded, but grabbed a note pad to jot things down as Xander talked. “Back in high school, sophomore year, a shaman cast a spell that pulled the primal spirit of hyenas into myself and a few other kids. I got the alpha, the female alpha. Eventually my friends cast the spirits out, but mine apparently never left completely. I occasionally had flashes of impulses, and regardless of what I told everyone, I always remembered everything we did….” Xander shook his head a sad frown flashing across his face.

“Later that same year.. or the next.. I can never remember which… “ He trailed off lost in thought for a moment then shook his head. “Look I know you and Sam have an issue with magic and its existence, but it does exist, trust me I have cast spells, been in the middle of them, and summoned demons.” He held up his hand as Daniel started to speak. “Just let me finish this. Halloween that year, a chaos mage was in town. He decided to cause some chaos by enchanting any costume purchased from him to make the wearer become in fact that costume. Some kids became demons, a friend became a 17th century noblewoman, Willow a ghost… and I became a solider. Well once the spell was broken those personalities just faded away from everyone…except me. For the longest time I could dismantle a gun, clean it, and put it back together blindfolded. Eventually it became harder to remember, but I didn’t worry about it, it meant less dreams about Vietnam. But.. something changed… I had thought it had to do with leaving the hellmouth but after the information Thor passed on, I realized it had started when Caleb gouged out my eye.”

Xander paused as he saw Daniel’s frown. “Caleb was this anti preacher working for Evil, he was determined to destroy us all, and he caught me and put a thumb through my eye. It was very…un-fun.” There was a twist of a smile at Daniel’s snort. “But back to what I was saying. Since I lost my eye I started knowing things I had thought I forgotten and occasionally react slightly strangely to things. As time passed and eventually I came here I started hearing voices. For the longest time I thought you guys had a telepath you had not told me about and I was catching their thoughts to me. Well it turned out it was the residents in my head making peanut gallery remarks. Well apparently they have decided that wise ass comments aren’t enough and are training me.”

Xander stopped and took at deep breath and then looked at Daniel. “So now you know about them, and since I don’t see you headed for the phone with the whole ‘he’s nuts’ look in your eyes, I guess you at least don’t totally disbelieve me?”

Daniel looked down at his notes and then back to Xander and replied very seriously. “Xander if even half the stuff your and your friend went through is true, and given everything you have told me, plus the stuff you haven’t.” Xander snorted at that thinking of the syphilis incident. “I have to say you are one of the sanest people I have ever met, for all that you are crazy.”

Xander frowned and looked hurt. “Why do you say that?”

Daniel started to laugh. “Xander, sane people can’t handle this place. They wash out in weeks. We have lost more people because they could not handle the twist of their reality this creates. We are now at the point in our screening process that we prefer people who are a little “off”. RPG’s, comic book collectors, sci-fi freaks, all of those do better here than the straight-laced by the book people. You barely blinked when you found out, and you had already dealt with alternate realities, demons, and other things. Yet you have no cracks to your psyche, you respond normally to situations, and I have yet to see anything faze you for more than a minute or two. So yeah you are extremely sane for being a bit crazy.”

Xander had started to snicker near the end and nodded. “K, I guess I see your point. So what about my two visitors?”

Daniel shrugged. “I can’t see them being much different from the Tok’ra or the Ascended.” Xander felt a strange shudder go through his brain at that, accompanied by a low growl echoing through his mind. “And they can’t really talk to anyone else… can they?” Daniel looked up at Xander with an arched brow.

Xander thought for a moment. “I don’t think so… they say they won’t take control of my body, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. But… neither has any desire to live again and Hyena regards my body as too fragile to bother with. So I think not. ‘Fraid they are my private voices.” Xander stopped and sighed. “Great.. I have my own invisible friends.”

Daniel laughed “See, you will fit right in with the rest of us. Here is my advice. Tell Landry and Dr. Lam, she will want to run tests to see if that explains your odd EEG activity at the beginning. Then the rest is up to you as to whom you want to inform. Don’t worry we aren’t losing your over this. Just more skills at your beck and call.” Daniel said with a grin.

“Joy… but.. thanks.. I will go let Landry know, and prepare myself for the barrage of tests I KNOW Dr. Lam will set up. But… thanks again.” Xander turned and headed for the door and the General, when he stopped and glanced at Daniel with a grin. “And I will be sure to let Faith know you were asking about her condition. I am sure she will repay your thoughtfulness next time she needs a sparring partner.” Fighting down a laugh as Daniel paled. Faith on a rampage made Teal’c look bored. Still snickering he headed out the door, ignoring the mumbled “I’m dead” coming from Daniel’s office.

Landry was relatively easy to find and after explaining all of it again, and agreeing to the tests, Landry seemed mostly undisturbed by this revelation. When he caught Xanders’ confused stare he just grinned and said “Xander if you were normal, you wouldn’t be here.” And Landry walked out whistling at Xanders’ dumbfounded look.

Dr. Lam was a strange mixture of excited and disbelieving, but when Xander proved it with three different EEG reading, she was both fascinated and worried. It took a week of being at her mercy, but finally the only thing they had to prove that Xander was not completely insane was the EEG readings, and the odd bits of knowledge that Xander really should not have, like details about fights in Vietnam. But over all nothing really changed other than Xander getting a bunch more blood drained out of him. He decided to leave it to the few who knew, even though when Sam found out she was going to read him the riot act, and Cameron would rag him unmercifully, but for right now, Xander kept it relatively quiet.

~~~~

Ever since the talk with Faith; Xanders’ dreams had been more and more intense, leaving him waking up in the morning feeling like the inside of his head had been stretched a bit. One morning he woke up with the word MEDITATE ringing through his head like a bell.

From the pressure his guests were applying to him, Xander figured there weren’t any excuses he was going to be able to offer them to get out of the mediation thing, so he didn’t even try. Instead having heard Sam and Daniel talk to Teal’c about his meditative Kel’no’reem, he decided to talk to Teal’c. He was still very curious about the man who was the reason he was here. Xander had tried to get to know him better but between the Jaffa Council, the Ori, and Xanders training, it had been difficult. So this was a dual-purpose visit.

Xander knocked on Teal’c door and hear the rich deep voice through the wall. “Enter.” Xander pushed open the door and looked around. He saw a room laid out exactly like his own, with burgundy candles giving the room light. A low bed was on one side of the room; against the wall where Xander had his entertainment system was instead a wall of weapons, all hanging neatly. A dresser against the other wall with a single picture of the original SG-1 team in a frame on it. Teal’c was in the middle of the room, his impressive structure again causing a flash of envy to race through Xanders’ mind.

Teal’c tilted his head rose smoothly from his kneeling position. “Xander how may I be of assistance to you?”

Xander smiled his trademark dopey grin, which Teal’c had come to realize long ago was a very skillful mask. “I seem to have developed a dire need for meditation… and I was wondering if you would mind teaching me your kelreeno?”

Teal’c tilted his head. “You mean the Kel’no’reem?” I would be honored to teach it to you, however most humans have found it less than satisfactory as it is primarily a way for Jaffa to communicate with their symbiotes, allowing them to heal faster. As humans do not have a comparable aspect, they often find it less than helpful.”

A wry chuckle was wrested out of Xander. “Well once again I am the exception, let me tell you about my two friends.” Xander proceeded to tell Teal’c about his inhabitants, Teal’c listened gravely and then nodded at the end.

“Then perhaps the Kel’no’reem may indeed be effective for you. Join me?”

Xander followed Teal’c in the center of the room, where a candle was burning on the floor, and tried to mimic him as he sat down on the floor. Teal’c made the lowering of himself look smooth and graceful, Xander on the other hand ended up flopping. “Teal’c if this is mostly to talk to your symbi, why do you still do it as you don’t have one any more?” Asked Xander, trying to get himself into a comfortable position.

Teal’c looked at him with a slight smile. “While I now sleep where as before I did not, I find the ritual of Kel’no’reem soothing and helpful in organizing the events of the day. It is… comfortable.”

Xander nodded, “K that makes sense, you keep doing cause it makes you feel better emotionally.. even if you don’t really need to do it.”

“Indeed Xander. Shall we begin?” Xander nodded watching him, not really sure what was going to happen. Willow use to try to get him to mediate, but usually he just fell asleep quickly. “With Kel’no’reem you need to focus inside you and find that which you normally ignore. Look for the essence inside and find where it lies.”

Teal’c fell into a breathing rhythm, which Xander found easy to duplicate, long slow breaths in and out, no holding, just steady, oxygenating breaths. Xander listened to Teal’c voice focusing on the flame of the candle. “See the flame, feel the connection to it, the warmth and danger that all warriors are. Now sink into yourself and find that duality, the danger and the warmth. Once you are there, search for the other parts of you, that which makes you, you.

Xander focused, the flames growing in his mind, seeing how it light and warmed the room, but knowing the burn and bite if you were careless. He thought about himself, whom he had thought a Zeppo, but the warrior in him. The jokes he gave to all, and the willingness to die to save them. Slowly his eyes closed, still thinking about who and what he was, he sank deeper into a trance, the steady rhythm of Teal’c voice acting as a hypnotic, then slowly inside himself where he was looking two figures began to form as his awareness of them intensified. A man, older in his late 40’s, slightly graying hair, an easy smile, but with military stance slowly made himself real. Next to him a hyena, in her prime, old scars tracing her body, but pride and power in her movement. The man looked at him and smiled.

“’Bout time you got here kid.”

Xander smiled, as he finally met his two guests and he knew he was whole.

~Fourth Horseman Starts Here~

Xander and Faith knew something was up when the base locked down. It didn’t take them long to learn about the plague, and then they were busy staying out of Dr. Lam’s way. What was odd was neither of them got sick. Xander figured for Faith it was her slayer bennies, but he really wasn’t sure why he hadn’t until a smug voice growled through his head. ~hurt my pup? I fixed that, rended and tore, no more.~ This was followed by a cackle of hyena laughter. Xander decided not to mention this to Dr. Lam, not really sure how mystical spirits killing a virus translated in to medical terms. Email was locked down but Xander had talked to Willow via the necklaces, just asking if they were okay. Willow was cheerful, no on was sick and she was pretty sure she could heal anyone that got sick. Xander filed that away as a last ditch effort. He wasn’t sure if you had to be willing to become a prior, because if not the idea of the Ori getting their hands on Willow was enough to make him consider blowing up the Star Gate

When Orlin showed up, both Xander and Faith were relieved, thinking that surely a previously ascended being would solve this problem quickly. But everyone was affected as hours then days passed without a cure.

Xander had more problems heaped on him when he bumped into Orlin in the cafeteria rather than just seeing him from a distance, and was rather disturbed when Orlin stopped and actually looked at him, then laughed commenting. “They will find out you two are still here and they will not be happy.” The smile faded. “Too bad I won’t be in any condition to watch that fight.” He shook his head wand wandered off hi mind again engrossed with the virus.

Sam came up to Xander looking at him quizzically. “What id you say to make him laugh? He has been so serious lately.”

Xander who was pale and suddenly not hungry shook his head at Sam. “Honestly I didn’t say a thing.”

Xander dumped his food quickly, leaving a very confused Sam, and headed to find Daniel, but no one had time to talk.

Xander played with the puzzle pieces he had; white and gray orbs, spirits, his dreams, meditation, and Faith until the three different puzzles started to come together. The piece that helped snap them together came from Orlin, and his confrontation with the Prior where the Sodan lived. When the information came back about what Orlin said about the Ori gathering power form the worship, it fell into place. Excited he bounded into Faiths room to tell her, as Daniel was still swamped with other stuff.

“Faith! I think I got it!”

Faith looked up from the college catalogue she had been reading. She had earned her GED, passing with flying colors, so now she was toying with the idea of more education. “And what’s that?” She asked smiling at his obvious delight.

Xander plopped down on the bed. “You heard what Orlin said when he faced down the prior, right?”

Faith frowned, “Something about the Ori needing people to worship them for power?”

Xander jumped off the bed bouncing on his toes. “Yep… and that led me to figure it out, the white glowly balls I saw were faith and worship. While the gray ones were fear, they can feed off of both. Which is why the first few visits to a planet are always minor miracles, but progressively they are more and more powerful. Because they gain power as people worship and fear them!” Xander was all but dancing around the room at this point.

“Wow, that sounds great! Have you told Daniel or Sam or even Cameron yet?”

Xander sighed and slumped down on the bed.” Nah… everyone is a bit busy with the plague, so it will have to wait.”

Faith nodded, “Yeah.. have you thought about calling Willow?”

Xander made a face. “Yeah but not sure if the risk would be worth it. Just worried about it. Gonna give the doc’s a chance. If Teal’c was here, he might understand the consequences of telling about Wils.”

Faith shrugged. “Maybe.. when is he supposed to be back from Chulak?”

“I don’t know, but ever since Gerak converted to a Prior, things have not been good.

With a sigh Faith leaned against Xander, enjoying the warmth. “Never thought fighting anything but demons could be this scary.”

“Me neither.” Xander replied with a quick on armed hug, turning his head towards Faith, and leaning down slowly, looking in her eyes, when the off world activation alarm sounded, and they both pulled apart reluctantly. “Come on, let’s see who is knocking.” Xander said, heading for the door resolutely ignoring the muttered voice in his head with a southern drawl. ~curses foiled again~

They moved a bit too slowly and caught a glimpse of Teal’c headed to the observation room and Gerak walking into the infirmary. “What the hell?” They both asked looking at each other. Picking up the speed they saw Cameron, Daniel, and Sam running into the observation room also, but before they could get to the door, a bright white light, so bright Xander swore he saw white glowing b alls through his eyelids. Frozen they looked at each other then turned rushing in the infirmary door, but Gerak was gone, only the faint hint of smoke in the room to indicate anything odd had happened here. Formerly sick people were now up and moving, looking much better.

“Damn Teal’c did it, and Gerak, but why the floor show?” Asked Faith looking around the room. Xander was staring fixedly at the area where Gerak had been.

“They disappeared. There were like or two grey balls floating towards the room, but they are gone completely.” Muttering more to himself than anything.

Faith tugged at his arm. “Ya need to tell them what you figured.”

“I will, figure by tomorrow everything will have calmed down enough for me to talk to them.”

It actually took about three days for clean up and things to calm to the point where Xander could get a meeting with everyone. Finally with General Landry, Teal’c, Faith, Daniel, Sam and Cameron in the conference room Xander stood uncomfortably, public speaking was not his forte. “Umm.. okay.. uh.. remember the report where I saw the white or grey floaty things?” Blushing a bit at Sam’s arch look at his descriptions, he hurriedly rephrased it. “The un-identified colored energy balls?” Everyone nodded watching him. “Well the information Orlin gave us when he confronted the prior” nodding a bit to Sam, who closed her eyes, “gave me the key to figure it out. Orlin stated they needed the power that comes from worship. I think the white balls of energy are in fact worship consolidated.” Everyone frowned a bit but Sam and Daniel’s eyes narrowed and they nodded. Xander continued. “What more, I think that the grey blobs are fear, and they feed off of that also. Possibly like the difference between high octane fuel and a low octane fuel.” Cameron’s eyes lit up, that he understood. Xander cleared his throat and kept going. “Now this is all just… um.. theory.” Grinning a bit at using the word correctly. “but I think that they collect the power when they visit worlds, most likely with those staffs. That is why their shows of power get larger and larger each time they come back to a planet. More and more energy is waiting for them each time.” Nodding to Sam and Daniel “I think your device actually prevents them from tapping that power stored in the staff. Now I didn’t “see” how Gerak destroyed or stopped the virus, but I think part of it is that he completely drained the staff doing it, and his flame out was part of the back lash mixed with the physical fail safe Sam and Daniel guessed at.”

Xander stopped reviewing through his points. “Um.. that’s it… I think.” And he sat down abruptly.

There was a pause and then everyone started discussing the theories he had put forth, but at the end Sam summed up the general feeling. “Basically the priors use the emotional energy of worship or fear to fuel them and given what Orlin told us, they bring the excess back to the Ori to utilize in their bid to break out.”

Xander thought for a moment then nodded. “Yep!”

Cameron and Daniel looked worried. “That is not good. While it might be possible to convince large populations to not worship them, to not fear would be nigh impossible.” Pointed out Daniel. Everyone looked grave and finally the General shrugged.

“Well for right now we really can’t do anything with that information, we just need to be aware of it if it becomes something we can act on. Xander we needed to know this, but right now I just don’t know how to take advantage of it.”

On that note the meeting broke up.

Chapter 13

The last two weeks had been busy, still dealing with the ramifications of the plague and then the information Xander had deduced about the Ori. Meditation had been interesting and strangely exhausting, enough so that Xander had started to do it before bed, as he got strange looks if he fell asleep in the middle of the day.

Meditation with his guests was not the relaxing, uplifting experience Willow had always claimed. Once he could easily find his inner space (literally), Soldier would show up, and they would start training. Soldier declined to ever give him a name, saying, that person was long dead and gone, and honestly he wasn’t too sure anymore anyhow. But the training sure seemed real, and in the mindscape Xander suffered broken bones, sprains, cuts, and blows that almost any instructor would have found unacceptable. And it hurt when he got hit, but when he left the meditative state, other than a few bruises and feeling like he had been beaten, he was fine. This toll on his body was a strong argument for falling asleep immediately afterwards and giving him time to rest and heal. That seemed to be part of the hyena’s influence.

Lady found him more in his dreams, she told him it was easier for her to communicate when his fore mind was not as awake, she was more comfortable with the animal part, the one that was part of fight or flight. Her lessons were different and she was just as harsh a teacher as the Soldier was. From her he was learning to track and hunt with a bloody intensity that sometimes disturbed him upon waking. Waking remembering the taste of blood in his mouth was very disturbing. But learning how she saw the world made him regret his body some mornings, though the opposable thumb made up for a lot. As she taught him to hunt and track, she also taught him to craft his mind to create the landscapes for them to roam in, simple at first but over time they were becoming more complex and beautiful.

Soldier took use of this developing skill, prodding and teasing him until he got a recliner and some beer out of it, but no matter what Xander could only create a TV but not the shows on it. In the end the Soldier had to be satisfied with a journal, sketch book, drawing, and writing instruments, Xander could not create anything that was someone else’s creation besides a basic carpentry manual. But that was proof that his guests were separate entities. Soldier could draw, and draw beautifully, enough so that Xander wished he could bring some of the pictures of Lady out with him, they were just stunning.

Slowly the meditation visits became something Xander looked forward to, and often talked to Soldier in his head, understanding the military now more and more to the point that occasionally Soldier was whispering regulations in his head as people walked by, listing all the ones they violated. Faith was getting their share of attention also. While most of Lady’s comments Xander kept to himself as they were rather earthy, however accurate they might be, but that was more of a self defense mechanism after accidentally mentioning to Faith that Lady thought she would make a good breeder. That work out hurt, a lot.

Xander did not realize it, but people around him were seeing changes, and enjoying them greatly, though only Teal’c, Daniel, Faith, Hank, and Carolyn knew why the changes were happening. Cameron was teasing him a lot about the world jetting life suiting him, and Sam was just looking at him funny, but was too busy to worry about it. The biggest change was his relationship with Teal’c. Xander had found someone who understood that sometimes to save you have to kill, something Faith still shied from as a result of her accidental kill many years ago. The understanding Xander gained from having entities inside him, helped him begin to understand why Teal’c missed “junior” and realized that if his visitors ever left he would be less because of it.

Teal’c and Xander spent a lot of time discussing the differences in their mediations. Where Xander actually interacted with his guests, Teal’c had never done more than get vague sensations from Junior as to contentment or distress. Teal’c was fascinated with the difference between Xander’s guests and either the Goa’uld or the Tok’ra. Where the symbotic races tended to overwhelm the host at least periodically Xander so far had not even had that as a possibility, though both Xander and Teal’c suspected Soldier could at least if he really wanted to. But mostly Xander and Teal’c talked, sparred, and slowly realized that this person had the possibility to be the Thousandth Man for each of them.

Life continued on at SGC strangely quiet at the moment, until finally a mission was proposed for both Xander and Faith. This was suppose to be a simple mission, there were no inhabitants on this planet, no life forms bigger than a rabbit, and all they needed to do was go to an old structure, and record the carvings on the wall. Daniel had not yet found the time to go and capture the images, so Xander with his wide smattering of languages and ability to find the oddest things had been selected. Even the General agreed it was an easy mission and just enough to get them some seasoning and stretch their legs. Both of them were glad to get some exercise and get away from the base, tension levels were up in the stratosphere, and by now both Faith and Xander could tell you exactly how far up that was. But by the time the mission was planned, approved, and prepared for, everyone had been saying what an easy trip this was going, to the point that Xander was wired with worry. Too many years of living on the Hellmouth had set off every alarm he had, and he just knew this trip was not going to be good.

The gate whooshed closed behind Xander and Faith and they stood looking out at a few trees dotting a landscape of mostly gently rolling hills and shrubs. They came through the gate on alert, ready for anything. Xander was scanning the landscape with a fierce intensity, and Faith was wired as well, but both of them slowly relaxed a bit as nothing moved, appeared, or even looked the slightest bit threatening. They looked at each other shrugging a bit, and slipping into explore mode as opposed to fight mode. Xander dug out the notes Daniel had handed him. v“It should be about 3 miles North-northeast. We should see a large stone building with Greek style columns in front, mostly of a sandstone material.” Xander folded the notes and looked around. “So ready for a hike?” v“Yep, lets get going, pirate mine.” Faith grinned at him and winked. She had been flirting with him more and more lately, and every time Xander just got butterflies of absolute delight, but he still didn’t know how to respond exactly, but he was trying.

“Of course, me’lassie, lets get this crew on road, argh.” Snickering as she stared at him, then she started laughing. They set off on an easy walk across the open area. It was a long walk across softly rolling hills, and both of them kept an ear and eye on their surroundings. Neither talked much as they had reach a point where just being around the other made them happy. Not much progress on the relationship front, but neither was complaining, just having someone to trust and accept them was a far cry from what they had hoped for.

The came over a slight crest in the hill, and expected to see the building they were looking for but nothing was there. Faith went on alert and Xander checked his notes. “No we are exactly where we should be, but the building is not. Lets go down and check.”

Moving slowly looking for traps or mines, they reached the bottom of the small valley. The lessons the Hyena had been teaching him kicked in and he knelt fingering the ground. After looking around, with Faith patiently waiting, watching for threats from the surrounding area Xander stood up. “You can relax Faith, I know what happened.”

She lowered he gun and looked at him with a smirk “Okay great Swami, tell us the story.”

Xander stuck out his tongue. “Not much, just a really big earthquake that looks like it completely wiped out the building. I found under the layer of dirt, remains of some of the stone, but the rest just disappeared into the earth. It would also explain why there are so few trees, and mostly grass, that grows quick, and trees take a while. I suspect this place is very active with the whole ground shaking thing.”

As he spoke the ground rumbled and both of them sighed waiting for the tremor to pass. “See I knew growing up in California would eventually have a positive effect… I can ignore tremors with the best of them.”

This time Faith stuck out her tongue, but pulled away easily as he tried to grab it. “So back to the gate to tell them of the no luckness of this place?”

“Yep.. so much for our mission. But you realize now we will never get Daniel off a planet until he has filmed every scrap of everything, to avoid this ever happening again?”

Faith winced “Remind me to start packing extra batteries and memory chips for the cameras, might prevent problems.”

Xander snorted as they started walking back. “Yeah, you know he is gonna whine for at least a week about missing this information.”

“Hmm. I say we spike his coffee with Gringik blood, you know the one that makes you unable to be depressed for more than 30 seconds, every time he does.”

Xander started to laugh. “That would be funny.. but if Dr. Lam got wind of it, she would kill us.”

Faith sighed “Um…. Feed him decaf?”

A choked reply “Hell no, I don’t want to suffer that much.. though the temptation of switching his travel supplies next time he goes off world is very tempting.”

A look from Faith “Are you nuts, Sam would kill us, then gives us to Cameron, then Teal’c would take his turn, and she might be willing to resurrect us, just to kill us again if we did that to her.”

Xander thought that over and paled a bit then brighten “But only if she could prove we did.”

“Yeah like anyone else would dare.”

“True.. okay.. next time we leave base for a week, maybe to visit Slayer Central, we switch his private supply, he should be back on regular by the time we get back.”

Faith thought “Yeah that might work, and we would be too far away, with lots of Slayers to protect us, if they came after us.”

“Yep… win win…” Xander ignored the laughter in his head from Soldier at the thought of Danny without caffeinated coffee for a week.

The walk back to the gate was full of teasing and idle conversation, now that both of them were reassured there was nothing on this world to worry about. When they got to the DHD they dialed the symbol set they now new better than their social security numbers. It got through six chevrons, and then closed down at the seventh.

Faith and Xander looked at each other confused and worried. They dialed home again, and the same thing happened. Now really worried they kept trying, after a half hour Xander called it quits. “Well it looks like we are here for a while, something is obviously going on at the base, but right now we can’t get through, so lets find a camp and make ourselves comfortable, we will try every hour.”

Faith nodded, and quickly pulled out a blanket from her pack, and set it up in the shadow of the gate. They, being hell mouth trained, had packed as if they might have to stay there a week, so rations and what not were not an issue.

“So whadda ya think is going on?” asked Faith, occupying herself with setting up a simple camp.

Xander shrugged having laid out his share of supplies. “I don’t know, maybe a gate malfunction or something. But makes me feel better that Sam is on that side, you know she will get it fixed.”

“True.. woman reminds me of Red all too often, but a bit less scary.”

Xander snorted a bit. “Just funny to hear people calling Willow scary, I always see her in my minds eye crying and holding a broken crayon. But she was pretty damn scary on that mountain top.” A strange look in his eyes, before he focused on something else.

Faith tilted her head “You know I don’t think I ever heard that whole story. And I don’t think anyone really knows how you stopped her.”

Xander ducked his head, avoiding looking at her, but he did not fall silent. “Yeah.. never seemed like I needed to say what happened, just that I stopped her… I told her fine she could destroy the world, but she had to kill me first.. I had earned it, I loved her, so I had to be the first to die. The darkness in her wanted to, but in the end she couldn’t.” Another odd shrug. “So she stopped.”

Faith looked at him eyes wide, “You stood up to Red in full black witchy mode, and told her she had to kill you first? Damn Xan you are either the bravest man I have ever met or the craziest.” Faith was truly shocked, Dark Willow was enough to make her run for the hills, and she had heard about she had done to the guy that killed Tara, it was enough to make her pale.

Xander shrugged “Just was, hated to see her hurting like that.” He then began to focus on making some food, clearly uncomfortable with the subject.

Faith just sat there stunned and the only thought she had was ~someday I hope someone loves me enough to die because I am hurting~ Finally she shook it off and helped with camp, and the conversation switched to casual things like music and movies.

The night passed quietly with Xander testing the gate every hour, but they were still unable to connect. The next morning Faith stretched and glanced Xander.

“Wanna go for a run around the gate?”

Xander stood cracking as he did so “Sure.” He stripped to a shirt, BDU’s, knife, and pistol. Faith was in about the same, and then they started a nice easy run, in a large circle around the gate.

They had just completed their third lap with Xander breathing a little hard, but Faith not even sweating, when the ground shook under their feet, and both of them were knocked off balance as the ground shook and swayed.

Xander hit his head as he fell and was disoriented for a few moments, just trying to hold on, then the shaking subsided, and he shook his head, trying to clear the haze of pain, and looked around.

Faith was gone.

Adrenaline rushed through his system, and he was up and moving before he even thought about it, looking for her, scanning the area. Over to his right, where she had been there was a large crack in the earth, he flung himself down on the edge and looked down, but all he could see was darkness. “FAITH!” Xander yelled, listening carefully, but he could see nothing. Up and moving again at full speed back to their camp, he grabbed a flashlight and rope and was headed back to the crevasse.

Again laying on the ground, he shined the light down into the broken earth, and there at the bottom about a hundred feet, lay Faith. Dirt covering her, and from the angle of one of her legs he figured it was badly broken. Rage not his surged through him ~mate, mate hurt, rescue!!~ came a demand from Lady, growls escaping him as her rage threatened to overwhelm him. “NO.. stop it!” He shouted, startling all three of them. “I can’t be angry and pull this off, lend me strength, but save the rage for when she is safe.” In the back of his mind he heard a soft growl of acquiescence and the rage faded to a mix worry, fear, and anger from all three of them .

Xander slipped into a zone, working fast, grabbing his rope, using the DHD as an anchor, then grabbing Faith’s rope to extend the length, he snapped on a carabineer, and quickly set up a basic loop so he could get down to her. Soldier fed the knowledge and knots he needed to make this work into his hands almost seamlessly, so that Xander barely had to think about what he was doing. Soon enough, but an eternity to the three, Xander was slowly making his way down the crevasse. Each time he touched the walls more dirt fell down on Faith, until he wanted to scream and just jump down, but he knew he could not afford to get hurt also.

Finally after a lifetime, though it took only five minutes, he was at her side. Her left leg was very badly broken, and as much as he hated it, he knew he had to set it quickly before Slayer healing, healed it broken. He looked her over quickly and she had a large knot on the back of her head. Flashing the light into her eyes, both pupils were the same size, and reactive, so he allowed himself to hope that she was simply unconscious, not bleeding from skull trauma in her head. He blessed the first aid training they had been required to take and mentally made a decision to get his EMT certification, he was too scared she might need it someday not too, and the brass would be delighted.

“Faith baby, I have to set your leg, okay? I know it is going to hurt, but I have to do it now.” Talking to her softly soothingly, even though in the back of his mind he heard Lady wanting to attack, kill. But there was nothing here to rend. Taking a deep breath, and placing the broken leg between his legs, and bracing his legs in her crotch and hip, he kept talking softly. “Okay baby this is going to hurt, and I am so sorry.” He yanked hard, pulling the broken bone back into the torn flesh, and feeling it almost snap together like a puzzle piece.

Faith roused screaming, then mercifully slipped back into the darkness that claimed her.

Xander was fighting to just to keep hold of everything, and quickly tied and splinted her leg with her knife, trusting the single splint would hold until they both got up top. He then picked her up, swinging her onto his back, and quickly tying her legs around his waist, and her hands around him, one arm under his, the other over his shoulder. He knew this was going to be hard, but it never even occurred to him that he would not succeed.

Grabbing a firm hand on the rope, he began to climb, the dead weight of Faith pulling at him. “Don’t worry baby, I’ll get you out of here, and home to Stargate Command, they will fix you right up. Just hold on baby.” Xander did not even realize the amount of love and tenderness in his voice as he talked to her, or even what he was revealing as he fought to climb the rope.

The earth was giving way, and there had been a few minor tremors that made him lose his footing, but not once did Faith ever hit the wall. Skin ripped off his palms as he climbed, his grip so tight on the rope, the two voices in his head soothing him, keeping him focused on the climb, and his reassurance to Faith. None of them realized when their words started coming out of Xander as all of them focused on the climb. “Chin up lass, we will get you out of here, plan on keeping a warrior like you around a while, who knows the kid might even marry you someday, he is already in loved with you. Come on baby, we are almost there, then I can check you out, you will be okay I know it Faith. You good mate, you stick with him, provide strong pups, you too strong, this not hurt you, just slow you down short while.” Speech patterns weaving in and out as Xander fought with exhaustion and strain to get up a wall crumbling around him, the tremors showering him with debris from above.

But finally 45 minutes after he had started, he made it to the top. Quickly untying Faith, he carried her to their camp near the Star Gate, which seemed to be built on a granite base as it had not even moved. Laying her out tenderly, he did a thorough scan on her. Unconscious with a large knot on her head, broken leg, a few deep gashes that he cleaned carefully, but otherwise she seemed fine, if she would just wake up. Once he was sure she was stable, he tried the gate again, still the seventh chevron would not lock.

Locking his jaw and resisting the temptation to rip the DHD apart with his bare hands, he went back to Faith and rested her head in his lap. “Hey gorgeous, it’s going to be all right, we all know Slayers can’t get put down for long, guess you just needed a little break huh? It’ll be just fine, and soon you will be back to torturing all the men with your beauty. Please be okay Faith, I really don’t want to lose you when I just found you.”

Xander sat there for a very long time, stroking her hair, monitoring her temperature and listening for any sound that said she was awakening. He rambled to her quietly in a soft soothing voice, almost not aware of what he was saying.

“You know I think I feel for you the first time I saw you, walking in those leather pants, all big and bad, and determined to not let anyone see past that image. Then you pulled me in and rode me, first time I had ever had sex, I was so nervous, I could barely touch you, for fear you would disappear. Then you threw me out… you wouldn’t believe for how long I thought it was cause I’d sucked in bed. Took me a long time to realize that was how you protected your self… heck I don’t think I realized that until I saw you with Robin, how hard you had to fight to not just brush off his touches. I’d wanted you to be happy, even if I didn’t like him. But I’m so glad you are here with me…. Getting to know Faith Revere has been a joy I ne’er thought to have, and falling in love with you was something I never expected. Hell when I offered, I just wanted you to have a chance, the chance we gave everyone else. Then when I found out how young you were the night we were together I almost shot myself, I should’ve known… but you were so beautiful and self-confident it never even occurred to me to ask. I think that’s what almost drove me to do something stupid, here was this beautiful girl, took me in her, and.. I didn’t even notice something was wrong enough to ask why.. what did she see in me… didn’t bother to find out your age, last name, anything. God I’ll always hate myself for that. I want to spend a lifetime assuring you how smart, gorgeous, drop dead sexy you’ve always been. I want you to feel safe enough to be Faith, not just the kick ass Slayer I know you can be. Give me a chance to make you at least give me another chance.” His voice low and constant, just rambling as he talked to her. Even Willow may have been surprised at all he revealed, but Xander was still trying to figure out how to get them the hell home with out the Stargate. Part of his mind focused on subspace communicators, when he realized he still had the amulet on. He was starting to reach for it when Faith’s head moved and a mumbled pain filled voice spoke.

“too late, already fell love w’you…” She was groggy and slowly reached up to touch her head, but was prevented by Xanders’ yelp of joy.

“You’re awake!” Followed by a hard bruising kiss before he pulled away, blushing. “Sorry.. just glad you’re okay.”

A soft snort though she still hurt “only thing to ‘polgize for not giving me time t’kiss ya back.” Her Boston accent thicker than normal, and all she could see was the blinding smile of joy on Xanders face, which slowly faded.

“Wait a mo… did.. did you say you were in love with mE?” His voice rising to a slight screech as the voices in his head went insane with laughter.

“Ow… loud bad.. yes.. but not if’n ya keep yelling while my head’s trying to break open.” Whispered Faith, eyes closed and hand holding her head.

“oops.. yeah.. here.” Reach for the bottle of painkillers and a canteen, giving her both, and watching carefully as she took them. “You okay?”

“Umm.. I think so.. earthquake?” she went to move and gasped in pain as she moved her leg. “Uh… um.. leg broken?”

“Yeah.. a few other nice scrapes, but the leg and head were the worst.” Answered Xander, still watching her closely.

“Still can’t get home huh?”

“Nope.. seems like we get to spend the night.” A bit of worry in his voice.

“What’s wrong.” She caught it immediately and even wounded and tired, she asked.

“I had to set your leg, but if don’t get you back to the doctor soon, your healing might heal it and I don’t know the set is exact. If it heals they will have to re-break it again… and that hurts like hell.”

Faith shrugged “Better pain, than a limp when I run… I’ll deal.”

“K… you go back to sleep, at this point I am sure you don’t have a concussion, so might as well sleep right here.”

“K.. ‘sides I like Xander pillows…” with that Faith faded back into sleep.

Xander sat there for a long time, amazed and full of wonder that she had said anything about loving her, his mind just blank he was so stunned. Finally the Soldier snapped him out of it. ~Kid… you are worth loving.. and she is something special enjoy it.. and don’t let Lady push you into the kids thing too fast… she may want pups.. but right now you two need ta worry ‘bout yerselves…~

Xander nodded, and slowly replaced his leg with his wadded up jacket, and went to the gate to try again, still no luck.

It was late now, so Xander curled up next to Faith, watching over her, and went to sleep.

They were both woken in the wee hours of the morning by the gate coming alive, Xander was up and had a gun trained on the ramp before his eye was fully open, Faith was laying flat guns aimed at the gate, biting her lip from the pain of jarring her leg. vFingers clenched on the trigger as a form stepped through the gate, then relaxed as both of them recognized Teal’c stepping through, his weapon armed as well. He lowered his gun as he saw the two of them doing the same. “Xander, SlayerFaith, I am glad to see you well.”

Xander holstered his weapon, and snarked “I don’t know about well, but we are alive.” Reaching down to help Faith up, snarling a bit as she bumped her leg. “Sorry gorgeous, but this time I get to carry you.”

Teal’c headed over a trace of worry touching his face. “What attacked you to do so much damage to such a warrior?” Bending to help clean up their sparse camp, watching the area around them.

Faith laughed “Only a lady could lay me low, Teal’c and she was a real bitch.”

Xander started to laugh also, carrying Faith to the ring. “That she was, so tell us what we missed, and you can watch us tell Daniel his building is no more along with everything it had in it.”

Teal’c rose, their bags repacked and in his hands. “Indeed, I shall look forward to the histrionics Daniel will surely produce at that knowledge, and I wish to hear more about the female who took you down.”

Xander dialed the gate and both of them subtly relaxed as this time the seventh chevron engaged. “Lets just say, California needs to quit complaining, they don’t know how easy they got it.” Grinning down at Faith “You ready to go home?”

“I already am.” Replied Faith with a smile leaning her head against his chest as Xander walked into the wormhole.

Teal’c followed behind them with a soft smile “Apparently even warriors can finally see what is in front of them.” And vanished into the event horizon.

Chapter 14

The whoosh of an opening Stargate filled the room, and General Landry watched through the viewing window, expecting to see a tired Xander and annoyed Faith, followed always by an imperturbable Teal’c. Instead he saw a tired and battered Xander, walk through carrying an obviously wounded Faith, who jerked her head away from his chest as they walked through, followed by a Teal’c who had a confused look on his face. But while there was pain and exhaustion on their faces there was no fear or anything else. So Landry only ordered Dr. Lam with a medical team to the gate room, and then headed down there himself.

“Hey General, they back?” A strangely cheerful Cameron asked; he had intercepted Landry in the hallway headed towards the gate room.

“They are, however they look a bit worse for wear.” The General replied, watching Mitchell’s reactions carefully. He still was feeling out exactly how this man thought, and was enjoying having him in his command.

“WHAT?” All the humor and good nature dropped from Mitchell and he was again the professional. “Are they okay?” Mitchell asked stepping up the pace to reach the gate room.

The General grinned a funny smile, “I suspect they will be just fine.”, as he walked into the room with Cameron. Carolyn had beaten both of them there, and was ordering a gurney for Faith.

“Xander report please. What happened?”

Xander settled Faith in his arms a bit differently so Dr. Lam could have better access to her leg while they waited for the gurney. With a wry smile he replied to both Cameron and Landry. “Well the place was nice and quiet like you said, no creatures bigger than a rabbit… though I do think mentioning the Richter 10 earthquakes might’ve been a thought. We were waiting for the gate to connect, and I would like to know what happened with that by the way, when Mother Nature decided we were bored and decided to fix it. Slayers might be good at reacting to stuff, but Mother Nature, bitch that she is, cheats, and dissolves the ground beneath your feet, it doesn’t seem to matter how good you’re at balance, if there isn’t a damn thing to stand on.”

Teal’c had been standing there quietly, but spoke up “So the female that bested you was Mother nature?” Not sure of the usage.

Xander grinned, “We call the essence of natural forces on planets by the nickname of Mother Nature, and she can be a bitch… especially when she has tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes in her arsenal.”

“I see, then indeed a female did “kick your ass” as you put it.” Xander just laughed and focused on the General and Cameron again.

Both Cameron and Hank looked at them a bit disbelievingly. “You mean to say an Earthquake, broke her leg and did that to you?”, asked the General, nodding at Xanders’ torn up hands and various cuts and scratches.

“Nah the hands I did, trying to carry her up the hole that appeared ‘neath her feet, 75 feet down. Did I mention Slayers are heavy?”

“I heard that mister, don’t make me come over there.” Sniped back Faith as Dr. Lam was having her sent to the infirmary.

“And I want to see you shortly to look at those hands.” Snapped Dr. Lam, heading out the door with her patient.

“Wouldn’t dream of it… will be there in a bit Doc.” Something yellow flashed in Xander’s dark eye as he watched Faith go out of the room, then he turned back to the other two. “So that about covers it, slayer falls in hole, drag slayer out of hole, waiting for home to call, as their signal is busy.” Shrugging looking at the two.

“I see…” replied the General, part of him wondering how such a simple mission could get so complicated, Xander was starting to fit in here all too well. “And Daniel’s information?”

“Remember the comment about earthquakes… there ain’t no temple… at all.” Replied Xander with a shrug, “Hadn’t been for about six months from what I could tell from the grass growing over the site.”

All three men winced a bit, “Command decision” announced Landry, “You get to go find Daniel and tell him, just as soon as Dr. Lam takes care of your hands.”

Xander narrowed his eye at them, “I see how it is, throwing me to the wolves are you?”

A quick smile crossed the General’s face, and there was glee on Camerons’, while Teal’c just twitched his lips a bit. “Oh yes, there are some advantages to having rank. I will be happy to tell him you will be down to see him, after you have some scrapes taken care of.” With a slight smirk, the General turned and walked away.

Teal’c just shook his head slowly and nodded to Xander, “I will take your equipment to your rooms, so you may visit Dr. Lam and Daniel with out delay.” And turned and walked off at a steady pace.

That left Cameron there with barely contained glee, as Xander turned a dark look on him. “You do realize this means none of you’re safe, right?”

Cameron choked a bit “Hey what’d I do?”

A brilliant smile “You saw too much.” And Xander turned and walked away to see Dr. Lam and Faith.

Visiting Dr. Lam was relatively painless, a bit of blood and some antibiotics for his cuts, then Xander was in to see Faith.

“You did very well in setting the leg, and you got her back here in time, so that I could finish getting it set properly. There are drawbacks to her healing factor at times, and this is one of them. How long ago did she break her leg?”

Xander thought, counting up the time “About 12 hours total, she was unconscious for about 6 of them, and asleep for about 5 of the other.”

Dr. Lam looked at the x-ray in her hand again. “Well at least I have a base line, it takes about a week or so in most people before I start seeing the new bone growth to repair a break, hers is starting in a little over 12 hours. Now you know your time line both of you, get the bone set correctly in less than 12 hours or it might have to be re-broken.”

Xander and Faith both nodded, it was good information to have. “You can take off Xander, Faith you will be here for another few hours, while I get you in a cast, let it dry and take a cat scan, just to make sure you don’t have any bleeding. Okay?” The look she gave Faith said clearly it was not a choice she had, so Faith just nodded.

“K… I will come get her ‘bout ..” looking up at the clock to see what time it was. “1800, and I get to sign the cast first, after all, I carried her up out of that hole.”

Both women rolled their eyes at him and shooed him out.

Once he was gone Carolyn started working on the cast, talking to Faith about the earthquake. While she was in the middle of casting the leg, Faith asked “How much do you have to report to the brass about what we talk about?

Carolyn shot her a quick look, then went back to focusing on the cast. “Pretty much anything that is either not allowed or that I feel would affect your performance. Drug usage, depression, pregnancy, stuff like that.” Carolyn answered, working on the cast, giving Faith time to ask her question.

“Hmm.. what about birth control.” Faith asked, idly picking at the blanket on her lap.

“Nope.. what kind would you like?” Replied Lam, not batting an eye, but trying to remember when she had bet Faith and Xander would get together, and wondering who won that pool.

Xander picked at the torn skin on his palms as he approached Daniel’s office. Sighing he knocked on the slightly ajar door.

“Yeah.. come in..” replied a distracted voice.

Xander pushed the door open, greeted by the normal organized chaos of Daniel’s work space. “Hey Daniel.”

Daniel turned to look at Xander “Yes you’re back. Okay put the tapes of the writing over here by the computer, and the rubbings on the… why are your hands empty?”

wants, they had fallen just as in love with the scientist explorer as the rest of the SGC and hated to disappoint him. He just got that look on his face that made you feel like you had kicked a kitten. “Sorry.. no pics, no rubs, no nada.”

Daniel frowned, “I’m sure I gave you the right coordinates, and the building was there. Was there a problem? There weren’t any locals.”

Another nonchalant tsking sound, “Sorry, no locals, no building no nada.”

“Dammit, I knew I should have gone, would have avoided this whole thing, dammit we will have to go back and go to the right place this time. Xander, I really thought I could depend on you to find it, come on it’s a huge building in the middle of a valley, how could you miss it?”

Xander watched him get more and more upset, and finally lost it, and started laughing, which acted as a release valve, and suddenly all the stress and worry about Faith and getting home hit, and he couldn’t stop laughing.

Daniel froze in the middle of his rant looking at Xander quizzically for a long moment as he went into hysterical laughter. “Did I miss something?” Daniel asked hesitantly after waiting for the laughter to die down, though that took some time.

Wiping the tears from his face, and taking some deep breaths to get his breath back, Xander looked up at Daniel and replied, still laughing a bit. “We found where it was.. or use to be, prior to the earthquake that swallowed it whole.”

“EARTHQUAKE!!! You mean it is completely gone!!!” Daniel almost shouted looking at him.

“Yep, just like the one that hit Faith and I, and caused her to have a broken leg, and be unconscious for way too long.” Becoming a bit more serious and slowly standing up.

Daniel winced “I take it she is okay?”

“Yeah.. Doc is putting her in a cast now, so I came down to give you the news.”

Daniel sighed sitting down. “Dammit I was hoping that site would shed some light on some activities of the Ancients. That is it, I am never leaving a site to “come back later” some times the bloody site, isn’t there later!”

Xander started snickering and said softly “Daniel.. stop and think how you react, because otherwise… the pranking shall start.”

Daniel paused and reviewed what he had been saying, and sat down with a sigh. “A little overboard huh?”

“Oh your over the top complaints about losing info is legendary.. but.. we did look, and I am glad it happened while we were not there than while we were… a broken leg is bad enough, if we had been in the building when it fell, we would probably be dead, not much can handle a few tons of rock falling on them. Unless you’re a Horta.” Grinned Xander.

“Horta? Is that a new demon species?” Asked Daniel suddenly interested.

Xander sighed “You just sealed your fate on what you are getting for Xmas this year geek boy… I am headed for showers and to write my report. Sorry you lost the info.”

Daniel aware of a pop culture reference he had missed cringed, wondering what present he was now going to be tortured with, just nodded. “Yeah tell Faith I hope she’s okay… I’ll try and stop by and see her later.”

Xander just nodded and headed out the door. The emotional release the laughter had triggered had exhausted him, and now all he wanted was shower, sleep, and Faith in that order. The rest he would deal with later.

A half hour later, Xander crawled out of the hot shower, and lay down on his bed. Glancing at the clock he saw he still had three hours left before the Doc was going to let Faith go, enough time for a nap, one he really needed, then get Faith and food, she was going to be starving also. With that decided, he leaned over, set the alarm for two hours, then laid back and promptly fell asleep.

Once his dreams hit, there was a hyena, lolling in front of him with the smuggest expression he had ever seen on an animal. Eyes narrowing he looked at her, “I wasn’t aware hyena’s knew how to gloat.”

A low growl of laughter ~not gloat content, now get pups and grow pack~

“Whoa… slow down… we are not anywhere near that.” Protested Xander holding up his hands. “Heck I don’t even know if Faith wants pup.. I mean kids.” Xander said shaking his head. “I just am trying to figure out how we are going to work this, any family stuff is far down the line.”

Lady growled her discontentment. ~pups good, bring family close, bond you~

“Yeah well… there are lots of things to come first… like this war with the Ori? I don’t wanna bring any pups or kids into this until it has been resolved. And Faith is a warrior, you would have me take her out of the battle for kids?” Arch voice looking at hyena.

The hyena slumped and growled ~speak good, no like, but yes… kill enemies first, then pups~

A strangely soft smile crossed Xander’s face and he leaned down to pet her. “Let’s just try and treat her the way she should be treated first, then worry about the rest.. k?”

A growl of assent, leaning into the touch, the rumbling a comfort as in the mindscape he fell asleep on her flank.

The alarm jerked him awake and he groaned. Nowhere near enough sleep, but it would do. Faith, he needed to go get Faith.

Splashing water on his face, and brushing his teeth quickly he headed down to the infirmary, focusing only on short term issues for right now; Faith, food, report, more sleep.

He came across Dr. Lam headed back into the infirmary, a rather sour look on her face.

“Hey Doc, something wrong?” Worry flashing through him.

Carolyn looked up at him startled, she was a bit annoyed, she had gone to check on the bet for when Xander and Faith were getting together, to find out the General had already spilled the beans and that Walter had won both pots. He picked the Where – First Solo Mission, and When – getting the rough week time frames dead on. It was almost like he knew things he just shouldn’t have been able to know. Xander’s question startled her and she looked up an amused smile on her face when she saw him. “Nope.. just annoyed with the crap that comes with working here sometimes. Come on, she is probably chomping at my tables she has been complaining of absolute starvation.”

Faith was pacing the room, a dark purple cast on her leg, her face lit up when she saw Xander, then she hurriedly schooled it into normal reaction, completely missing the doc’s grin. “’bout time pirate, I was beginning to think I was going to have to eat the bedpans, I am starving.”

“Hey that is my purpose in being here, to bring you to the wonderful place they call a café-a-teri-a… it even has blue jello.” Looking around for a wheelchair. “So where is the pushy thing you get to ride in?”

Carolyn snorted. “She refuses, was all I could do to get her to agree to a crutch for the first few days.”

Xander looked at Faith with a huge puppy dog eye. “What.. no getting to pushing you tearing through the corridor’s? No wheelchair races? No using the stargate ramp as a jump? Please???” Begging he fell to his knees in front of her, pouted lips and all.

Faith cracked up, he looked so pitiful, and was so sweet, she didn’t even mind that he was sweet talking her. “Okay, okay.. anything to get the puppy dog eyes to go away.. Doc… a chariot if you please.” Giving in to him with amusement, and starting to laugh as Xander jumped up.

“Yes I get to be a Faith pusher… wait.. that didn’t sound right.”

Carolyn Lam by this point was laughing, knowing Xander had made it up all on the spot, mainly to take care of her patient, but she had to give credit to both of them for playing the game so well. “One chariot, here you go… please try to keep it under 20 in the halls?”

“Yes O Doctore!” Saluted Xander as he pushed Faith out into the hall, heading for the all important food.

Once out of the door and down the hall a bit, the act faded and he looked down at Faith. “So gorgeous, you really okay?”

Faith nodded, a bit of her relaxing hearing the tenderness in his voice. “Yeah.. I should be off crutches in a week, and out of the cast in about three. Doc said it was ‘bout three times as fast as most, so… doing good. ‘parently you did a bang up job setting the bone, so there was nothing to redo, for which I am more than thankful.. breaking hurts, breaking twice hurts more.” Grinning up at him.

“Good! So I figure food, then… um.. your quarters to talk this over a bit before it becomes common knowledge?” Asked Xander trying to keep it light.

Faith winked, she had known they had to talk this change over, they might not be military but this was a military base, and as such they had to take certain things into account. “Yep.. food first, swear you would think I haven’t eaten in like 20 hours I am so hungry.”

Xander thought as he pushed. “I think it is closer to 24.”

“Argh… hurry.. food.. I am wasting away!!!” Whined Faith as he pushed her into the cafeteria.

Both of them were met with grins and jibes of “Hm.. took Mother Nature herself to take you down Faith.” Or “What, there wasn’t trouble there, so you had to wait for the earth to move?” All in all everyone was teasing and smiling at them and glad they were okay.

Once seated, Cameron and Sam found them, each dropping a light snack down in front and taking a seat, where they proceeded to pry out all the information about their time on planet, both kinda relieved it was so simple as a natural earthquake, and bummed that it had not been anything else exotic. At this point Xander and Faith demanded to know what was going on at SGC that had prevented them from coming back. Both very disappointed at what they had missed.

“What? I missed multiple Teal’c’s and Camerons’ to drool over.. okay this just isn’t fair.” Whined Faith, her hand covertly squeezing Xander’s leg under the table to let him know she was teasing.

“Hey how do you think I feel.. not only did I miss all the eye candy of multiple Sam Carters, but I missed getting to see this Doc Fraiser they all talk about.” Xander pouted, with an exaggerated expression. Both Cameron and Sam blushed and laughed, and the conversation quickly changed to a few up coming missions.

By the time they had finished dinner, with Faith inhaling twice her usual amount much to Sam’s disgust and envy, it was late and Faith was beyond tired. Xander was very tempted to just tuck her into bed, but they both needed to cover this.

Once back at her quarters, with Faith tucked under the covers, the door closed and locked, Xander sat down on the bed. “So… you mean what ya said, ‘bout loving me?” Trying to keep the hope out of his voice.

Faith reached up gently stroking his face. “I think I have been falling for you for a while, the proof’s probably in the fact I haven’t jumped ya again…. This time I want it to be real, not just a quick fuck.”

A slow smiled spread across Xander’s face and Faith almost gasped at how it changed this man into a thing of beauty, and he leaned forward cupping her face gently and kissed, her. Slow and deep, conveying his love for her, the fact that he wanted her, all in this one kiss. Faith rarely kissed, it was too personal, but this time she fell into the kiss, fell into the love he had for her and felt cherished.

When the kiss ended both were flushed and looking at each other, wanting. But in unison, they shook their heads. “Slowly.. we are doing this right.” Stated Xander, love and regret in his voice.

“Ya.. we are.” Leaning close to kiss him softly. “So… how much do we show out there?”

Xander leaned back thinking, Soldier feeding regs into his mind. “Well we ain’t military but there is a reason why they don’t let people on teams date. So.. .while I don’t want to give you up and I won’t, but I refuse to let you start going offworld without me, I don’t think I’d be able to handle that. So I think that outside this room.. we stay friends and quasi watcher/slayer relationship. But in here and off base… I get to show you how much I love you.”

Faith’s heart stopped. It was the first time he had said he loved her, to her, not just rambling. A slow smile spread. “I think I can live with that… outside we are just us.. elsewhere we can be a we…. Got it.” Grinning and leaning forward for a kiss.

Xander grinned “Now that that is settled Ms. Revere, next weekend we have off, after you are up and fit as a Slayer.. would you go on a date with me?”, with a hopeful tone in his voice.

Laughter bubbled up, and Faith knew she had made the right choice. “I would love to.”

Xander leaned in for a kiss, ignoring the shouts of ~way to go!~ and ~mate good!~ in his head.

~~~~

Three long weeks of Faith driving everyone up the wall with her cast. First she made just about everyone on the base sign it, that was the first week. The second had Dr. Lam threatening to tranq her if she didn’t calm down, but she was climbing the walls. Xander just watched and snickered, trying not to show his amused love, and kept her busy in the training room doing seated combat drills, or immobilized. Teal’c joined in on these, liking the idea of training how to fight when injured.

In between keeping Faith distracted, and trying to take this whole relationship slow, unaware of the amusement of the rest of the base, Xander had broached the idea of EMT certification with Dr. Lam and the General, pointing out that Slayers often can’t wait to get back to SGC as they heal too fast, and the basic good sense of having an medically trained person on missions where people are getting shot. Neither of them was a particularly hard sell, and they set up classes with the nurses, and found available internet courses for the basics. A few others decided this was a good idea so Xander quickly found himself with about five other people from other teams working towards EMT.

But right about the time the EMT started going, Faith finally got her cast off, much to the relief of everyone on the base. They had learned that a bored slayer was dangerous, and everyone was very glad she was finally fully mobile again. But with Xander busy with his studies, and Teal’c very stressed about the current state of the Jaffa Council, had everyone on edge, especially with the vote for democracy coming up soon. Faith was at a major lose end. However Teal’c made a suggestion. “SlayerFaith is one of the best warriors I have ever seen, however she needs more partners to match her skill level. I believe that once her fighting skills are proven, the Sodan would be honored to have her come and train with them, they would see it as a challenge to meet her at her level.” This idea was met with nods and pure glee from Faith, who was going a bit stir crazy not having anyone to really go all out against.

Plans were made for Faith to spend a week in the Sodan camp, while Xander kept on studying. EMT was a lot more work than he had anticipated and more than once he regretted sleeping through the majority of Chemistry and Biology in high school. But every time he got too depressed, he just remembered Faith laying there, leg broken and unconscious and not knowing what to do. That would get him up and talking to the Doc, or the nurses, or hunting down Sam to ask questions about concepts he just didn’t get.

(Authors Note: -just FYI so you know what he is trying to do
· First Responders – 40 hours of training 
· EMT-Basics – 110 hours of training 
· EMT-Intermediates – 200 to 400 hours of training 
· Paramedics – 1,000 or more hours of training)

Xander was aiming for an Intermediate, he hoped in the next couple years to get to the paramedic level, but that was time he wasn’t sure they had right now. The three weeks it took Faith to get fully mobile again, he managed to get all the First responder criteria down and pass the test with flying colors. But he was struggling with the Basic level especially with Faith needing something to distract her, once she headed to the Sodan for training, Xander dove in full force, making people compare him to Daniel with his focus, something that would have amazed Buffy and Giles, but Willow had seen this side of him before, whenever some hurt her, the single mindedness to make them pay had appeared. This time he was focused on protecting someone he loved.

As he worked on this he dropped an email to Giles. Willow and Dawn he talked to almost weekly via the email, Buffy only about once a month, but Giles it was always work related. Nothing changed with this email.

Yo G-Man, how goes the work with the lovely ladies? Hey had an idea I wanted to rec about watchers. Faith got hurt a while back, she is okay so no stressing, but I have never in my life felt as helpless as I did seeing her lying there, not waking up, hurt and bleeding. I don’t want to ever feel that way again. So… currently working on getting an EMT cert, and I figure that should be something almost all Watchers should have… nothing hurts worse than seeing your slayer laying there and you don’t know what to do. Don’t give me no money woes, we both know nothing is worth losing one of our girls…

Just think about it.. give my love the ladies.

Xander

It was a day or so before the reply, but that was enough o make Xander grin in relief and laugh.
Alexander –

Even in email you insist on addressing me by the infernal name, one would think you enjoyed my reaction from how much you use it. However, regardless of you lack of proper etiquette, your idea is in fact a good one. We have almost gotten everything settled, and yes that means I will soon find time to talk with your Dr. Jackson, and I think that would be an excellent expenditure.

Thank you for the idea, take care of your Slayer.
Giles

That left him snickering, but also relieved at the hope that no slayer would have to live with badly set bones. With new energy, feeling like for once he was paving the way, he through himself back into study.

Xander was about halfway through the Basic level when the overhead speaks announced “OFFWORLD ACTIVATION.” Xander looked at the clock “Shit.. that’s Faith.” He was up and running to the gate room, just sliding in as she walked through the ring.

Her appearance elicited a few whistles from various quarters, while Xander was just working on not drooling. A solid week of pushing herself had given her a nice healthy glow, and taut muscles, which were evidenced by the leather halter and skin tight leather leggings she was wearing, clothes she had not had when she left. Trying hard to tamp down the desire to take her in his arms, and the other desire to growl at the soldier teasing her with how hot she looked, he strove for a causal remark. “Heya, glad to have you back, looks like the Sodan’s appreciated you.”

She laughed as she stalked down the ramp carrying a new staff, “Well lets see, I got three offers to knock boots, and four offers of marriage. Only one guy made a comment about my ‘producing’ good children… “ She smiled that sweet deadly smile and talking to her audience “After I cleaned the ring with him, no one else dared.” The various personnel snickered as she walked out with Xander. “But I had to refuse them all, after all my heart is taken by… “ winking at Xander. “my calling…” Laughing as they walked out.

“Glad you enjoyed, and even more glad you didn’t take them up on their offers.”

Faith wrinkled her nose. “Nah.. it was fun and all, but tell ya you ain’t getting me to live nowhere permanent that doesn’t have hot running water and malls.”

Xander laughed shaking his head, seemed like all slayers had a taste for shopping also.

Headed down the hall with Faith, going over her trip they ran across Cameron. “Hey what’s up Mitchell?”

Mitchell had a dark frustrated look on his face, and instantly they both knew something was wrong. “Teal’c is missing, we think Ba’al has him.”

Both Xander and Faith went on alert “You guys going to need help going to rescue Teal’c? We can be ready in 10 minutes.” Xander wanted to go help, and was frustrated with his own preoccupation that he had not noticed Teal’c had missed one of their training sessions.

Cameron looked at him distracted; he had been kinda off lately., but a look of hope cleared as something occurred to him. “Teal’c…. no but you and Faith could do me a huge favor.” He fell in with them walking down the hall. “Look I got a friend.. he shoulda had this gig… but he got hurt in a mission with me and lost the spot. Well.. now he is dying.. from that injury. I got permission to use that memory device and let him see all the stuff I have done.. but I can’t stay.. Teal’c… is more important, he might be dying, but Bryce is dying and nothing can change that.. but.. you and Faith.. could you go… be with him… say good bye for me… you are in my memories so he will know you, and might give him a smile to meet a gorgeous babe that can kick his butt.”

Xander looked at him, surprised and vaguely honored, he glanced at Faith who nodded. She knew what it was like to be the one left behind, prison had taught her compassion in a weird way. “Sure… give us the details and we… we will say goodbye.”

Looking like a huge load had just been lifted from him Mitchell dug a piece of paper out of his pocket and scribbled everything down. “I will try to be back in time, but if not… be there… okay?” Both of them nodded, then Mitchell was gone.

They took time to change, Faith dressing in her typical leather and tank top, but brought along an over-shirt, she didn’t want to cause any heart attacks.

They headed to the hospital, hoping they weren’t too late, but Bryce was sitting there, lost in the memories, so they took a seat, playing Name that Demon while they waited.

It wasn’t too long, when the machine beeped, and Bryce shook his head, eyes opening, then focusing on them, narrowing. “Wait I remember you two… you are in Cam’s memories… you’re her… the slaying girl?” Focusing on Faith.

“See.. you ALWAYS get top billing, what am I chopped liver?” Groused Xander with a smile at Bryce. The door was shut and Faith would hear anyone before they could get close.

Bryce blinked focusing on Xander, “You.. you’re the one that popped into the middle of a secure base, and won’t tell anyone how.”

“That’s me.. but I want to point out I did tell them, they just refused to believe.”

Bryce grinned “Cam likes you…. Faith…” He turned and looked at her, then grinned the grin of a kid who is about to tell a secret. “He would love to date you, but frankly knows you can snap him in half, so he isn’t about to ask.”

Faith started laughing, and winked at Xander. “Too bad he lost his chance, when I was with the Sodan, they weren’t too scared to ask… even if I could kick their asses. You snooze… you lose.”

All of them laughed, and the conversation became Xander and Faith regaling Bryce with stories of life on the Hellmouth. Sticking mostly to the funny and unbelievable ones. They had been talking, enjoying the chance to talk about stuff with someone they did not see everyday, when Bryce winced, and Xander saw his pupil dilate.

“Ow… that hurts.” Bryce muttered rubbing his head. “Did it get dark in here all of a sudden.”

Xander smiled a bit sadly. “Nope.. just that nasty wound is catching up with you, guess you will have to say Hi to Cordy for me, on the other side okay?”

Bryce nodded, his speech slurring. “Will do… th..thanks…fer….being….heeere…” He sagged a little and the alarm went off.

Faith moved out of the way and Dr. Kelly came bustling into the room, flashing a light in Bryces’ eyes, then looking at the monitor. She shook her head. “It cut the vessel… he just bleed out. Tell Cameron I’m sorry.”

Faith and Xander nodded, getting up. Faith walked over to Bryce and gently kissed his cheek. “Wait for me on the other side, I promise to bring lots of new stories with me.”

Xander held Bryce’s hand for a moment, “Tell Cordy I miss her.”

Then they nodded at Dr. Kelly, picked up the machine and headed out to the car. When they got in, Faith spoke. “Don’t go right back, go someplace quiet, where there are no people.”

Xander nodded wordlessly and pointed the car to an overlook that was rarely used except at night by local teens. He parked the car and they both got out, he sat on the hood while Faith walked a little distance away. She tilted her head back and screamed, raw primal rage and sorrow. When she was done, she walked over to his waiting arms. “I am so tired of people dying.”

Xander smiled softly holding her close. “He was career military, we are lifetime warriors, death is what we face daily. He died knowing he’d be missed, and had friends to say good-bye, I can only pray we’re that lucky when we lose that race.”

Faith raised a dry face to him kissing him gently. “If I have to travel the galaxy alone, I won’t let you die without me there by your side, asking you to wait until I can join you.”

Xander smiled and kissed her again. “Who ever goes first, will always wait for the other, you will just have the three of us waiting for you, or three rushing to join you when it’s our time.”

Neither was talking about dying any sooner than they had to, but acknowledging that death was a part of the life they led, and when they found death they would wait until the other was caught as well.

They sat there for a long time, watching the sunset, and thinking of all the ones lost, a litany running through their minds of friends and loved ones they would not see again this side of death.

~~~~

Breakfast was calling his name in a nice loud voice, and Xander had every intention of answering. He was running really late due to a work out, and was scared he was going to miss the last serving. Faith was going to meet him there, she had wanted a shower first. Mouth watering at the idea of hash browns and sausages, he almost walked through Mitchell, who was walking down the hall with Sam.

Swerving violently he avoided them. “Guys, you know paying attention while you walk is a good thing.” Shaking his head and headed to the cafeteria.

Cameron and Sam jerked to a stop. “Did Xander just talk to us?” Demanded Cameron.

“I think so… Xander.. Xander!” Yelled Sam, as Xander walked away, still thinking about piles of bacon.

Xander did not react still walking forward no matter how hard they yelled. Frowning Mitchell ran to intersect him, waving his arms wildly. Xander looked up and blinked. “Yo dude, sorry I snapped at you, but you are between a man and his stomach.. or at least the filling there of.” Xander started to go around Cameron, but stopped as Cameron moved to intercept him. “What?!?!” A bit exasperated, he finally focused on Cameron’s moving mouth. “Oh funny.. hah hah mime jokes. Not… don’t leave your day job.”

Cameron began waving even wilder and went to punch Xander on the shoulder. Xander stood waiting for the hit, wondering what his game was, then yelped and jumped back. “What the fuck was that? Your hand just went through me… “ He looked up to see the smirk on both Cameron and Sam’s faces. “Say something.” Xander demanded, and both of them started talking energetically, and Xander heard not a word.

Finally he held up his hands “Okay, okay, I get it, I can see you, can’t touch you..” Xander trailed off as an airman, looking at him funny, walked right through Sam. He swallowed hard. “And apparently no one else can see you… please please tell me.. or nod your heads.. you aren’t the first evil are you?”

Sam and Mitchell looked at each other “Are we suppose to answer yes or no to that question?”

Sam shrugged, “I have no idea.” She shook her head the negative, and as Xander sagged with a bit of relief. “I guess that was the right answer.”

Xander stood looking at them and talking out loud, “Well I assume you can hear me, and since my sign language is mostly rude gestures.. that is out.” He was standing there staring at them when Faith walked up.

“Hey.. thought we were meeting in the cafeteria?”

“Faith.. tell me what do you see?”

Faith looked at him funny, rubbing her arms up and down. “You standing in the middle of the hallway making us miss last serving.” She shook suddenly. “Dang, feels like bugs are crawling on my skin.” Glancing down at her arms with a frown.

“So.. you don’t see anyone standing around with me?” Xander asked in a carefully neutral tone.

“Um.. NO… cause there isn’t anyone.. come on can we go eat??? I am starving.. slayer metabolism remember?” Asked Faith, still rubbing her arms.

“Mitchell.. you wanna pass through her or hit her or something?” Xander said to the air idly.

“Xander what are you…. AARGH!” Faith jumped back five feet, almost taking out a passing service personnel. “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

“Hmmph.” Cameron had walked through Faith, something no one else had reacted to, and Faith reacted as if scalded by hot water. “That was Mitchell walking through you…. Very cool…”

Faith glared at him and glared around “What are you talking about.”

Xander shrugged, “Sam and Cameron, standing right there, but I can see them, and you can feel them… but neither of us can hear them.”

A long slow blink “So no breakfast for you huh?”

“Yeah.. no breakfast… “ Xander sighed “Okay okay.. headed for brass finding.”

Faith took off, she was starving, her metabolism did not do well missing meals. “Yell if you need me, but right now all they are doing is driving me up the wall.” Casting a glare towards where she could feel Sam and Cam.

Xander started looking and finally found Landry in Sam’s lab arguing with Dr. Lee as to what happened. “Dr. Lee… I am well aware of the fact they were here when there was a flash of light, the question is where are they now?”

“Standing in the corner rolling their eyes at you?” Remarked Xander leaning in the doorway, hungry and grumpy, and rolling his eye at the faces Mitchell was making.

“WHAT?!”, Demanded General Landry, turning and looking in the corner and seeing absolutely nothing.

“Yea.. apparently I am the only person that can see them.. though Faith can feel them, gives her the absolute skin crawly sensation, and oh Mitchell.. Faith says you walk through her again, she is treating you to a special training session when she can lay hands on you again.” Xander tried hard not to laugh as Cameron paled and quit making faces, ignoring Sam’s snickers.

The General and Dr. Lee looked at him for a long moment, not really believing. Xander sighed, “Yeesh and you guys do this all the time? Fine.. I can’t hear them, but turn around and hold up a number of fingers, Cam or Sam will copy you and I will tell you.” Highly bored Xander rattled off the numbers that Cam held up, Landry and Lee turned around to look at him. “Do you believe now? Good.. leaving now.” Xander turned to walk out of the room.

“Wait, we need you here so we can figure out what is going on. I think they were working on this device here.” Dr. Lee said pointing to the ancient device found in the Arthur’s Tomb.

“Well I can’t read that, so get Daniel in here, and I will be back in a b…” about then Daniel walked in and Xander sagged against the wall. “Never mind.. I am going to starve to death.” He sighed.

Daniel looked at them curiously “Has anyone found Sam and Cameron yet?”

Xander answered wearily leaning up against the far side of the room. “Yeah.. they are over in the corner looking very happy to see you.. in fact I think Cameron is asking you to marry him.”

Cameron jumped back up from his knees where he had fallen to them thanking God someone intelligent had showed up and glared at Xander, who just stuck out his tongue at him. Cameron laughed “Is it just me or do you think this is not where he wants to be at the moment?”, he asked Sam.

She laughed “I think we are going to owe him a case of twinkies when this is done.”

Daniel was quickly caught up to speed on what was going on, and that Xander could see them. He stood there looking at the device. “Dr. Lee did you find anything around it?”

Dr. Lee shrugged “Only some lepton radiation, but such a small amount I was not worried about it.”

Daniel paled “They side stepped into another dimension. They are here but not in the same space time.”

Xander perked up “Cool, you know what is going on so I can leave.” Headed for the door his stomach was threatening to go on strike.

“Nope.. need you here to help me communicate with them. We need to figure out what happened.” Replied General Landry, and Daniel and Dr. Lee nodded in unison.

“Sorry Xander, but since you can see them, you can help.” Replied Daniel.

With a groan Xander sagged against the wall, his stomach growling. “Okay.. ask away.”

The next hour was spent with them discovering the display on the Ancients device, and Xander telling them what symbol was next, while Dr. Lee fiddled with the power device. Xander had taken to pacing up and down the room. He had written down the symbols in order, and Daniel was busy trying to work out the syntax as Xander paced.

General Landry stopped by “You don’t have this fixed yet?”

“Um.. no.. “ admitted Dr. Lee, “But I think I am close.”

The General sighed “Okay there has been a problem over with the Sodan, and Teal’c and a team had gone over to help them but has not reported back, I was hoping that Cameron would be free to assist in the team going now, but apparently not. Let me know when you have something.” He turned and strode out of the room.

Daniel nodded silently, as he focused on the symbols, while Xander was still pacing on the backside of the room. No one noticed Cameron slipping out the door. The next hour passed with Daniel getting clarification as to what symbols Xander could see, and the following screens.

Dr. Lee spoke up. “I think I have it, watch!” and pressed a button there was a flash of light. Dr. Lee looked around “Um… Dr. Jackson?”

Xander on the other side of the room, still sulking from sheer hunger, looked up at that, and saw a very disgruntled Daniel and Sam conversing, and Dr. Lee looking around blankly. With a sigh he spoke up “You phased him out. At least he can read the stuff now by himself.” Xander looked around “Hey… were did Cameron go?” Warily watching Dr. Lee to make sure he was not going to touch anything Xander headed over to Sam and Daniel. “Hey where is Cam?”

Sam looked sheepish, and pointed to the door. Xander sighed “Let me guess, Sodan… help Teal’c?” She nodded. Xander rolled his eye, “Anyone want to take a bet that Faith went with?”

Both Daniel and Sam smiled at him shook their heads and went back to discussing the device, though Xander did notice the next screen pop up and a gate address appear. “Okay, I am here.” Another loud rumble from his belly and Xander sighed and wrote down the gate address. Working quietly as he copied everything Daniel pointed at, unable to hear the very intense discussion Daniel and Sam were having. Most of him now worried about what Faith was getting into with out him there.

Xander was beginning to stress as time went by and they heard nothing. Finally Dr. Lee exclaimed “I think I have it, but… there is only enough energy for one attempt.”

Xander frowned “But Cameron isn’t here, will it reach him?”

Dr. Lee sighed “I don’t know, but the energy is draining, I have to try it now… or you may be their interpreter for a very long time.”

Xander watched Sam and Daniel gesture animatedly, then sighed and turned his back. “They say do it.” Completely ignoring all their wait and stop signals.

Dr. Lee pressed a button on his laptop, a flash of light and there stood Daniel and Sam glaring at Xander. “We told you to wait, we weren’t done studying it!?!?!?”

Xander looked at them unrepentantly. “You didn’t have time, and you are needed here, Faith and Cameron are not back yet, and I am STARVING! Now lets go make sure Mitchell is okay and maybe I can find some food.” With a growling stomach all of them could hear he marched out of the lab to the gate room, worry about Faith eating at him more than the hunger.

It took two hours, two long fretful hours, until word came back that all three of them, Faith, Teal’c, and Cameron were fine. When the gate finally opened there were three very annoyed people standing at the bottom of the ramp.

Landry and Sam glared at Cameron, while a narrow eyed Xander glared at Faith. Both Cameron and Faith paused looking at each other.

“Um… I am thinking it was safer fighting Volnek than facing them.” Muttered Cameron to Faith as they slowly walked down.

“Yeah… I’m agreeing.”

Teal’c walked down unperturbed nodded at Landry. “The problem is… resolved, there were however grave losses for the Sodan.”

Landry nodded absently “Thank you Teal’c please prepare a report for the ramifications of these losses.” Never taking his eyes of Cameron, who swallowed, pulling at his collar a bit. “Colonel, I believe you have some explaining to do about leaving the planet with out permission?”

Cameron choked “Well umm. Sir.. I..” Their voices faded Cameron trying desperately to completely justify his actions, with Sam pointing out that a senior officer advised him not to go.

Faith was envious, she was pretty sure his dressing down was going to hurt less than hers. “Um.. Hey Xan.”

Arms still crossed, eye never leaving her face. “And just what did you think you were accomplishing by leaving me here and not letting me know?”

She shuffled her feet a little. “I was worried ‘bout Teal’c then I felt that creepy crawly sensation, and I know Cam was going too.. so.. I went with the flow, and didn’t have time to let you know.”

Xander looked at her unimpressed. “And if you had been hurt I would have been here… unable to help you.”

Faith paled a bit, remembering their conversation, but tried to bluff it out. “Please… I was fine, no hurting involved.”

A tilted head and arched brow was her response “Last time I checked anything could happen.. and you could have been gone… and I would not have been able to say goodbye.” His voice deathly quiet.

Coldness filled her at the thought of not getting to say goodbye and her defenses collapsed. “Promise Xander, won’t ever leave without telling you.. if I can… “

Xander looked at her necklace pointedly. “Did you forget you had a communicator?”

Faith looked down at her necklace and blushed. “Um.. actually yeah… I won’t again.. sorry.”

“Hmph.. but you know what the absolutely worst thing about what you did was?” Xander asked as he turned and started walking away.

Worried now Faith followed after him. “Um.. no.. what?” Scared wondering how much she had screwed up.

“You ate breakfast and didn’t bring me any… I haven’t had anything to eat all DAY!” Xander whined with a quick grin to her, and a loud rumble came from his belly.

Faith started laughing and looped her arm through his. “Then lets go get you to the cafeteria.. I hear they have roast beef.”

~~~~

Xander walked down the hall slightly distracted and glanced up to see Vala walking towards him, ‘Heya Vala.” He said absently. He heard Daniel’s voice reply with a bit of surprise.

“Hello Xander.”

Xander stopped and information processed through his brain. *Vala gone.. Daniel’s voice.. turn and verify* came in bits through his brain and he turned and looked at a smiling Vala overlaid on Daniel Jackson. “Vala?” Uncertainty in his voice, not sure what he was seeing.

“Yes Xander?”

It reminded him of his 8th grade graduation trip to Disneyland and the Haunted Mansion, where the ghosts overlaid you. He could see both of them in the same body, but not. Xander sniffed, it smelled like Daniel, sounded like Daniel, but he could see Vala. Blinking his eyes for a moment he looked again, nope still Vala/Daniel. Shaking his head, “Some weird ancient devicey thingy letting you share his body?”

Vala grinned “Got it in one, I am so proud. So do you know where Cam is, need to tell that group some stuff.”

Xander nodded. ‘Yeah, locker room.” Pointing as his eyes drifted from the strangeness of two faces in one and let loose a strangled, “EEP!”

Vala glance back at him curious, then laughed at the look on his face as he squeaked out, “You’re pregnant!”

“Why yes I am.” She grinned and Xander was treated to the very disconcerting sight of Daniel stroking a very flat male stomach, as a very pregnant Vala stroked her swollen belly.

“Okay you have no idea how wrong that looks.” Stated Xander.

Laughter pealed out in Vala’s cadence and Daniels tone, all in all very odd.

“You always were more perceptive than most Xander. Get Faith so I can say ‘Hi’, I don’t know how long I have and have much to tell.” With that she was gone, with hips swaying down the hall.

Xander watched appreciatively, until he realized he was enjoying the sway of Daniel’s hips. “Bleach.. . must bleach mind.” He muttered heading to find Faith.

Finding Faith, dragging her to the interview room where they had Vala/Daniel, took longer than he expected. Faith wanted to know what was going on, and Xander refused to say anything just replying cryptically “I need to know what you see.”

When they got to the room, the camera was going and Daniel was talking animatedly, at first Faith did not really hear what he was saying, instead tilting her head noticing his speech patterns and body language was way off, he reminded her of…Vala? Frowning at Xander he nodded and she kept watching. “It’s Vala.. in his body.. why?” Whispering to Xander.

“Yeah I can actually see her, she wants to say hi to you.” Nodding a bit as Vala flashed them a quick smile as she talked.

Both of them started listening to what she was saying and their hearts dropped. She was so far away, and the situation was not good. Faith had a chance to go up and say hi while they were bringing her in some ice cream. “Val.. you okay? You really do look better in leather and your own body.”

Vala laughed, “You’re telling me. But I wanted to let you know I wish I was here.. hell I wish I was almost anywhere, but wanted to let you know I was still alive.” She glanced up at the impatient General Landry and sighed “Back to the story, listen, you won’t believe how it turns out.”

Faith retreated back to the corner with Xander, and they continued to listen to Vala explain about her husband, the Supergate, the Prior’s, and her child. Faith shot a glance at Xander who nodded in agreement. Everyone was stunned and Vala was starting to explain about the plot to sabotage the ships, when suddenly, “Um… what am I doing here?” asked a confused Daniel. Vala was gone, and Daniel was back.

Vala was gone again, and the Ori were coming. For Faith, Vala being gone again almost hurt more than the knowledge the Ori had a working Supergate. She was all too familiar with the presence of impending apocalypses for this to upset her, but Vala being gone again hurt. At least this time there was the possibility she might come back.

Everyone was in the conference room, discussing the information Vala had related and the possibility of the weapon Merlin had create that might defeat the Ori. The discussion was loud and fervent.

“NO.. I say we have to go at least see if we can find the weapon Merlin talked about, at the moment it might be our only chance!” Stated Daniel, upset and frustrated that everyone thought brute power was going to end this.

“I agree.” Replied General Landry calmly “However we don’t know where it is, if you can find it, and if you can find it in time. We have reports of where we think the Supergate is, and already ships are headed there to wait.”

“Fine.. then lets us go and see what we can find. Xander and Faith can come with us, they might have insights that we would not have.”, inserted Cameron, the need to do something, anything racing through him, making him look like he was chomping at the bit.

The General nodded slowly “Okay, but you don’t have much time to find the device.”

Xander interrupted. “Actually General.. guys.. I had an idea.” He spoke in a low voice but there was something about it that quieted the entire room and had them all looking at him, even Faith. Swallowing under the stares if General Landry, Cameron, Sam, Daniel, Teal’c, and even Faith he continued. “If the Ori are as dangerous as we believe they are, and if they have the power or ability to convert people into Priors, I think.. “ He paused and took in a deep breath. “I think we should bring in The Council of Slayers and Willow’s Coven.”

The room was silent everyone looking at him. Finally the General spoke slowly “What exactly do you mean by the “slayers” and the coven? I thought there were only two, and Faith came with you because there was someone else to hold down the other end?”

Xander winced. “Um… not exactly.. I kinda.. fudged the truth..” He shrugged under all the glares and stares. “It was not information you needed to know and at that point, this program was still on probation with me, and I figured Faith could fight her way out of here if necessary, and no one else was put at risk. Now I know you can be trusted.. so.. I am offering some… backup if the Ori hit Earth.”

The General processed this information, vaguely hurt that Xander had not told them, but he understood operational security. “Okay.. go on.”

Xander flashed a look at Faith and she nodded, they had discussed all of this prior to the meeting. “There was originally only one slayer, each time she died a new one activated. My sophomore year of high school, she died, but was revived by CPR, but another one was called, so for a few years there were two. Remember Sunnydale in California and it disappearing in a “earthquake”?” There were various nods from around the table. “Well that was us… we closed a hellmouth” He saw Daniel and Sam start to open their mouths and quickly explained “It is..was basically a portal to a dimension of hell. In the process of closing it Willow cast a spell that activated all the potential slayers in the world, and made them full slayers. I think we should tell them, and ask for help.”

Daniel started to ask questions, but Xander shook his head. “Daniel I promise, if there is a later, when you get Giles and me locked in a room, you can ask everything you want.. right now there just is no time.” The rest of the room was quiet, as people processed what Xander had said, until finally Cameron broke the quiet. “You mean there are like 15 or 20 girls… women with the strength and power Faith has?” Everyone looked incredulous at this idea.

Xander cleared his throat. “Umm.. not exactly.. last time I talked to them there were over 200 around the world.”

Everyone in the room choked, looking at Faith who started to blush. The General picked it up this time. “So you knew about an army of 200 people like Faith who could help fight this and you are only mentioning it now… why?”

Xander shrugged “Because frankly they have their own war to fight, with vampires and demons, who have come out of the woodwork with so many slayers around, and most of them are under 18, only three,… maybe 4 if Vi has had her birthday are older than 21. With so many we have been able to give them time to grow up, and train and not die alone. I’m not willing to bring that many… children into this unless it is world endage.”

After a few blank looks people processed that and nodded understanding his reasoning. “You are not equipped to fight their war, but if it is a battle for this planet, for the human race, they should be allowed to help. And then there is Willow and the group she has been training…” His voice trailed off… looking at Faith.

Sam spoke up “Willow.. that is the redhead who came with you and Faith?”

“Yeah.. that is Willow…” Xander said, something off in his discomfort.

Teal’c replied “I have seen how powerful she is, she would be a good addition to fighting the Ori.”

“No.. no you haven’t.” said Xander with a sigh.

“What do you mean, no we haven’t.” asked Landry.

“You have seen her doing things, that for her are the equivalent of Sam doing an algebra problem, something you can do without effort, without trying. We really don’t want her to get mad, the damage might get out of hand.”

Everyone around the table frowned, wasn’t that what they wanted, damage? Cameron spoke up. “Um.. what’re we talking she gets a little PMSy at the Ori and blows up a few buildings… or.. we talking atomic bomb damage?”

A soft snort of amusement from Faith as Xander shook his head. “No.. we are talking if she goes all Darth Willow…. she just might decide to cause the sun to go supernova and vaporize the earth. That is the level of what might happen if Willow gets truly mad.”

Everyone in the room froze looking at him with huge eyes, and you could see everyone struggling with the concept of someone with that much power. Xander paused and tried to figure out how to say this without freaking anyone out. “I think… wait.. understand something, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely… everyone got that?” People around the table nodded thinking of Goa’uld. “Well Willow, everyday sweet best friend Willow has enough power to transport people from one side of the earth to the other on her own personal reserve energy. If it was NECESSARY” he stressed this word strongly “I think she could tap power reserves enough that she could open and hold a wormhole from one galaxy to the next.” Trying to put it in perspective for them.

Sam’s eyes lit up “But that is great, if she can do that we could attack the Ori at their heart.”

Xander shook his head and sighed, “Right there Sam, that is my point. Yes.. she might be able to do that, but to do that she would have to tap into power that is what a ZPM is to a battery. She would have to get angry. At that point she will become power, no conscious, no mercy, no caring. Yes she might be able to defeat the Ori, but what would be left would be sheer writhing power with no thought to anything but it’s own wants.” He looked and slowly everyone paled as he continued. “Imagine being able to do anything you wanted, and I mean anything, make people kill themselves in front of you, ‘cause pyramids to vaporize, make the sun go nova. Couple that with no mercy, compassion, or love…. If we ask Willow to do something on that level, that is what she will become. As much as I hate to say it, the Slayers are human, and can be killed, if Willow taps into that again, she will be one step short of a god.”

The entire room went white and Landry nodded slowly “Continue.”

Xander swallowed “She is balanced by love and friendship now, and uses little more than her own reserves, so she is not a danger, but if we ask her to save the earth, she will destroy it because of the price to tap into that level of power. You need to know.. she can help and help a lot, but we only ask that level of help if death is better than the Ori.”

The room just went quiet for a long time, and Xander felt Faith squeeze his leg under the table in support. Finally Landry spoke. “I think we need to have both the slayers and Willow ready if the Ori do reach the earth, but they should stay as a last ditch effort. As you say, they are still children, and we have not reached the point where we are quite that desperate.”

Everyone nodded and Xander relaxed a little. “The other reason I wanted to keep them out of it unless necessary is Willow as a Prior scares the hell out of me.. I mean slash my wrists now scared.”

Everyone swallowed and a bunch of mental decisions were made, Willow as a Prior was a bad thing.

“Understood.. Faith, Xander, go meet with the Council and see if they are willing to help. And.. I understand why you kept this silent, part of me is screaming danger lock her up, but that would create the very thing I fear wouldn’t it.”

Xander nodded “Yes sir, a mad Willow is a very bad thing, and frankly I haven’t seen anything on any world yet that could hold her.”

“Okay.. please see if you can create an alliance, and I think I may pray we never get to that point.” Replied the General gravely, but part of him also wondered at the ‘again’ aspect of Xanders’ comment. He could tell Xander knew exactly what would happen if Willow touched that level of power, but from the grief in Xanders eye he wondered how close the world had come to not being here. He started to ask then he decided he really didn’t want to know that bit of information, sometimes ignorance was bliss. “Credit cards will be ready in an hour or so for you to use to get there and start discussions, call me before you agree to anything. Daniel, Sam, Cameron, Teal’c you go look for Merlin’s device, you don’t have long. Everyone… godspeed.”

With that everyone broke up and headed down their own paths to what fate held in store for them.

Xander and Faith headed to their quarters to pack, both not even needing to talk to the other, they knew the confrontation coming up was not going to fun or easy, but was more important than anything they had done in a while.

“So.. show up at the front door or do we warn them?” Faith asked as they headed to a jet that would drop them in Cleveland, a car had already been ordered.

“Oh.. I am thinking surprise attack, warning will have them suspecting way too much and none of it close to reality, I think a surprise visit will get us the most open minds, they won’t have a chance to expect anything.” Remarked Xander.

“Works for me.. but one thing… any comments about me being pregnant and I get open season on who said it.” Remarked Faith with a suspiciously blank face.

Xander jerked and turned to look at her, paling when he saw her face. “Daniel said something?”

“Well.. he was trying to apologize apparently for something he teased you about when you went to talk to him about the visitors… I am not sure what was funnier, his face when he realized you had not told me, or when I leaned in and whispered that payback was a bitch named Faith.”

Xander choked, but held up his hands “Just as long as you know I had nothing to do with it, you can deal with it all on your own, my dick has been saving itself for you, so feel free… .though now I wonder if I should warn Giles, so he can keep people from being killed?”

Faith grinned, a down right evil smile. “Now where would the fun be if he reined Buffy in?” Linking her arm with his as they settled into the jump seats.

Xander moaned and shut his eye, ignoring the soldier softly chanting ~fight fight fight~ and then snickering like crazy.

The flight was short and long at the same. Short because from Colorado to Cleveland did not take all that much time, long in wondering how much time they had, and how many would die if the Ori army made it through the SuperGate. But soon enough they were on the ground and headed towards a car, then quickly on their way to the Slayer House.

Leaving their stuff in the car, they walked up to the door, and knocked, it was promptly thrown open by a girl they didn’t recognize. “Yeah… wadda ya want?”

Xander blinked at the young girl, then shook his head. “And Giles thought we were bad… yeah here to see Giles.. as a start…” The girl looked at him with narrowed eyes, and turned and shouted into the house.

“Yo Dawn… some yokels here to see Gilesy.”

Both Xander and Faith broke into giggles “Gilesy? Oh my god, he can never complain about G-man again.”

They heard Dawn in the background. “Kath, how many times have we told you not to..” the voice had gotten louder and louder until it broke off when Dawn saw Xander. “XANDER!” was the yell that threatened to break eardrums as Xander suddenly had his arms full of a very adult feeling Dawn. But the grin was there as he hugged her tight.

“Hey Dawnie… how goes it.”

Dawn lifted her head to smile at him “About time you showed up for a visit, email just isn’t enough.” She flashed a welcoming grin “Hey Faith… glad to see you also. The door is open.” No one ever invited anyone in, and Faith walked through the door, as Xander followed arms still full of Dawn.

Kath snorted “Damn.. this the Xan you been talking ‘bout, ne’er said he was such eye candy.”

Jealously flashed through Faith and she whirled and actually growled at the girl before she realized what she was doing, and tamped it down hard. “Amazing what being chased all day long can do for a guys’ ass isn’t it.” Winking at the girl who had flinched back at the growl, but now was grinning with Faith as Xander just rolled his eye.

“I am actually here you know.”

Dawn pulled back and eyed him up and down “I don’t know Xander you are looking awfully good, I don’t remember this much cuteness when you left.”

Xander sighed, “I work out a lot okay, they got us doing stuff that actually burns up all the twinkies I eat.”

About now they heard thundering steps, and looked up to see Willow racing down the stairs, followed a bit more sedately by Kennedy. Dawn barely had time to get out of the way, laughing while she did it, as Xander was engulfed in a Willow hug.

“XANDER… you’re here, why are you here? So glad to see you have missed you, no xanderisms, is something wrong, is that why you are here, email is not enough going to start demanding visiting rights.” She was cut off by a strong hug by Xander, and she melted into his arms.

Xander did not notice the evil look from Kennedy, but Faith did, making a note of it. “Sorry Wills, you know work, demand, demand.. but am here now and you and Dawn can fight over my time.” Glancing up to flash a smile at Faith.

Faith was not worried, she knew that Willow was not competition and as much as Dawn might want to be, Xander saw her as a little sister, and would no more think of dating her than having sex with Giles.

All the commotion drug Giles out of the wing of the house he had claimed as his private domain, it had a small ¾ bath, a bedroom and a library.

“Xander… how nice it is to see you.” An honest smile coming to his face as he saw them. “Faith you look wonderful, I see the work has agreed with you.”

“Heya G-man.. yep we are as fit as a fiddle.” Xander looked around “Well.. the only Scoobie missing is Buffster.. where is she?” Starting to look a bit hurt.

Dawn giggled “Silly, she is at class right now, she took your advice and has actually been going to class and not cutting.”

Relief and a huge smile spread across Xanders face. “That is great… so… where’s dinner, I’m starved.”

The typical Xander remark dragged away most people as Willow and Dawn headed in to the kitchen to add extra supplies for dinner, the other slayers looking at them with awe and a touch of suspicion as, what were to them legends, they walked with Giles to his library, laughing and talking about sparring matches with people at work.

The happy go lucky act dropped as soon as they were in the library and shut the door behind them. “Giles can you put up a silence spell, so no one outside the room can overhear?”

“Dear lord, I had wondered when you showed up so unexpectedly, but I had hoped.” Giles focused for a moment and a spell went up around the room. “Nothing compared to Willow but I can case a silence spell, it is anchored to the walls, if they walk in they will hear, but no one at the door will, though we can hear them outside the door. So is the military chasing you, do we need to hide you?”

Both Xander and Faith looked at him for a moment, confused and started laughing. Giles frowned. “So… I take it from your reactions the military is not after you?”

Faith had fallen into a chair she was laughing so hard Xander shook his head laughter fading. “No.. I hate to say this, but it would be better if that was all this was about.”

Giles paled and sat ‘Dear Lord….” Taking off his glasses and polishing them. “Well then… what is the probl..” His eyes lit up as he saw the tender look pass between them. “Please don’t tell me Faith is pregnant!”

That set Faith off again on another round of laughter and Xander sat down looking annoyed “What is it and everyone thinking we are having sex, and that if we are, neither of us knows how to use condoms or other methods of birth control?!?!?” Completely exasperated, sitting there fuming.

Faith leaned over and kissed him, then looked at Giles. “Yes we’re dating, no sex, taking it slow.. so get your mind out of the gutter G-Man.”

“Oh not you also with that infernal nickname.” Muttered Giles.

Faith smiled sweetly “Would you prefer Gilesy?”

Giles flushed and studied the floor “No I think G-Man will do just fine thank you.” He recovered his composure looking at them. “Well if Faith is not pregnant and the military is not chasing you, what in the world is so serious?” Dread gripped his heart as Faith and Xander looked at each other, then Xander started talking.

They were in there for an hour covering the basic outlines of the Ori, supergates, priors, and Willow, before Dawn was pounding at the door. “Dinner is ready!!!!” Looking at each other, they nodded, and Giles took down the silence spell, they all put smiles on their faces, and headed out for dinner.

Dinner was fun, with Giles, Xander, and Faith all acting as if they had just come by for a visit. Buffy had come home for dinner and both Xander and Faith were treated to a scream of joy and a tight hug. The hug took Faith by surprise, though the whispered comment “I missed having someone around who understood what it was like being a slayer alone.” Made her slightly misty eyed.

Life had become more organized for the slayers, and a sit down dinner was normal, with some of the older slayers just waking up, and the younger ones having just finished their homework. After dinner was done, with the slayers on kitchen duty cleaning up, the three worked on rounding up who they really needed to discuss this with. Xander grabbed Willow by slipping his arm through hers, and walking and talk lead her into the library. Faith corralled Buffy by talking how hard it ws to train when most of the time she had to hold back her strength. Giles looked at Dawn and nodded sadly. “Get Robin would you?”

Over the last year Robin had become the one to run the day to day schedules of the slayers, and the one that took Buffy off active duty so she could go to college. He had known what Faith and Xander were doing from the start, but over time had regarded it as a joke and slowly forgotten. Dawn and Giles had not, and had talked about the ramifications, this was just one they had hopes would not happen. Dawn was becoming Giles right had, the one he trusted. Robin did not always have the best view of the girls, and was slowly becoming a hidebound administrator. Giles figured another two years and only a few would ever actually interact with Robin, but that he would deal with soon. Who knew, this might just shake him up. Then there was Andrew, amazingly enough he had become their primary first contact person for new slayers. As annoying as he was, he was also about as non-threatening as any of them could get. Most of the slayers might be ready to strangle him on any given day, but they never believed they were in danger when he approached them with his crazy speech about dreams and chosen ones. However regardless of all of this, Giles was still very glad Andrew was out in the field and not here to hear all of this first hand.

Kennedy was on patrol tonight, so she was the only one out of the group Xander had originally told that was not here to get the info first hand.

All of them trailed into the library, but it was not until Dawn all but pushed Robin in, who was still protesting he was too busy for any sort of gossip, and shut the door behind him, that they realized they were all in the same room. Giles nodded at Dawn and she locked the door. Willow felt the silence spell go up, and clutched Xanders arm hard. “Are you okay, are you in trouble?”

The tension in the group broke when Xander started laughing. “Okay to set the record straight, no the military is not after us, and no Faith is not pregnant, and definitely not pregnant by me.” He saw a few blushes that told him some people had jumped to that conclusion. “Yeesh… minds in the gutter I swear. Everyone just take a seat, I got some stuff to tell you.” His smiling face and Faith’s relaxed attitude fooled everyone but Dawn.

Much more relaxed everyone fell into their favorite positions, Robin grumbling again how he was too busy. Dawn oddly took a seat behind Giles desk and took out a notebook and a pencil. She looked up to see Xander looking at her with a dark eye and he nodded and smiled at her approvingly. She ducked her head, most still did not see her, but Xander seemed to see too much.

“Okay… okay, scoobies, and gent.” Nodding regally at Robin, then his face changed, subtly, but it did change, became more commanding, less goofy, and everyone in the room chilled, knowing this was not going to be good. “No the military is not hunting us, we are here because I suggested we come, and tell you about the war that maybe on our doorstep very soon.” He was met with blank looks from everyone. Taking a deep breath Xander starting talking, explaining about the Ori, the Priors, the plague, and the war that might be at their front door.

“Given that all of this coming down I asked my general” a small part of him wondered when Landry had become his general rather than the, but it was overwhelmed by the rest of the thoughts flooding around, “If I could alert you that it might show up here. From what I have told you about the Priors and the Ori, I had a twofold reason for that, one I didn’t want either of them getting their hands on you because you were unaware of the risks they posed, and two if it is a war for the planet, it is your fight too.” The room was full of pale, tension filled faces looking at him. Willow had tears running down her face though she made no sound. Xander went on to finish this out. “Willow I told them about you, and I think I made it clear you are a MAD weapon. I pray to all the gods and goddess out there we won’t have to ask you to do anything, but I want you guys to know the nature of the threat we are facing. They have destroyed entire worlds and all the life on them to achieve their goals. Now…. Do you want to be part of the last line of defense.. or not.. I can’t force you, but… this is Earth’s fight, and … you live here too.” Through out the conversation he had been articulate, composed, but so very serious. Only here at the end, looking at Willow, his heart breaking for what she was capable of did he start to lose his composure and offer them the choice.

The room was quiet and Buffy slowly raised her hand “um.. .one questions.. why is Willow a mad weapon?” Confusion clear on her face, still assimilating everything they had been told.

Willow was the one that answered “Buffy, it means if they need me to stop the Ori.. I will have to channel power that will destroy who I am. Xander called me a MAD weapon, Mutual Assured Destruction, meaning I might stop the Ori, but I would destroy the Earth in the process. And he is correct… I.. I think I could do it.. but… you thought Dark Willow was bad that time before… that would be but a candle compared to a bonfire as to what I would be… “

Dawn paled and looked down at her notes, she remembered all too well, and a small part of her wondered if the Ori would be preferable. Robin simply looked confused as he had not been present and made a note to ask later.

Xander cleared his throat. “One more thing.. um.. I haven’t said anything about Dawn. I.. I don’t know what the Ori would see, they are from another plane of existence, and I don’t know if she would or wouldn’t be anything to them. So… “ He cleared his throat and looked at Dawn. “Dawnie, I love you more than I love myself, you are the sister I didn’t have. But I would rather slit your throat than let the Ori use you.” There was a shocked gasp from the room as he said that from Buffy, but she was held back by Willow’s hand. A soft sad smile crossed Dawns’ face.

“I know Xander, and I would gladly lay my throat bare to you if it came to that.”

Xander had a tear running down his face. “But;.. I do have one option.. I haven’t mentioned you to the military, but if the Ori come, I think I would see if we could send you to Atlantis.. it is a base in the Pegasus galaxy. They have their own problems, but the Ori aren’t there. It is an option.. that is all… all of this..” Turning and waving his hand over the entire room. “All of this is a choice for you. Faith and I made our choices, I am just giving you what you so rarely got, the ability to chose to fight this fight.”

With that Xander sat, emotionally exhausted, throat raw from all the talking, and just looked at the people in the room. Giles, mentor, father figure, friend, he was pale but strong as he usually was for his ‘kids’. Dawn, was strangely serene, a smile on her face, and a backbone of steel that did not know how to bend. Willow, pale, crying, but smiling at him at the same time, his best friend, his worst nightmare, the one he knew he would die to save. Buffy, hero, crush, lost friend slowly being found, was pale shaking but nodding to herself, she did not know how to not fight. Robin, looking strangely lost as if his world had crumbled, but making notes on a pad, mind off assessing resources and ideas on what to do next. Finally Faith, the one he loved with heart and soul, the one he would fight death for, smiling at him, calm and collected, a warrior who knew she would die with blood on her hands, and okay with knowing that was her fate, because he would be by her side.

For a long time there was silence in the library, the faint sounds of slayers outside the spell contrasting with the shocked emptiness in the room. Finally Buffy stirred. “Xander, while part of me wants to strangle you for dumping this on us, I think you are being a dunderhead.” Xander frowned a bit hurt, then Buffy smiled “Of course we are going to fight, they set one foot on this planet and I am going to be there to cut it off. That is what we do, fight those who want to hurt others. All of us… “ Looking around the room with a smile as everyone nodded, and Giles had a hint of pride in his smile. “Though I think you’re right about Dawn, leaving her here if the Ori come would be like leaving our nuclear missile codes in Kim Jon-il’s hands.” At the looks of shock from Robin, Willow, Dawn, and Giles she went defensive. “What?? I have been enjoying my current events assignment.” There was low snickering, but she ignored it continuing. “So.. yeah if they come Dawn… you go.” Hard steel and love in her eyes as she looked at Dawn.

Dawn wanted to protest, but nodded slowly “I hate it, hate it with every fiber of my being, but… the risk to the planet is too great, I will go if they come.. and if Xander can get me to this place.”

There was a silent sigh of relief, more than a few had been expecting a battle of wills over this. Xander nodded. “Okay if it gets to that point I will lay the ground work, but for now…” he trailed off, looking at the others. “I guess we need to get contingency plans in order. Faith and I are due back in three days, so I need to let ’em know what we can and will do and how to use your skills if it comes down to that, if it never happens… well… I guess your universe got a little scarier.” A wry smile crossing his face as Buffy blew a raspberry at him.

Xander sat on the back porch, watching the stars. The moon was dark tonight so he could see them all, and now name them all also. Faith came out and sat down between his legs, leaning back against them. “They out there… where?”

“I don’t know… just far away, but all too close.”

“You think we’ll see them again?” Asked Faith, she was not looking at Xander, just focusing on the stars and the friends that might be dying for this planet, this galaxy.

“Either here or in the next life. They are heroes Faith, and we both know heroes rarely get to rest, even after death.”

A slightly bitter laugh interrupted them “True.. but we heroes go where called, where we are needed.. just very ungraciously sometimes.” Spoke Buffy, the last bit spoke with a bit of self-deprecating humor, as she came out and sat down besides Xander.

Neither Xander nor Faith moved, except to smile a welcome at Buffy. “That may be, but they are always loved.” Replied Xander smiling at Buffy, then dropping a soft kiss on Faiths head, feeling the touch of tension at Buffy’s appearance disappear. Buffy smiled watching them, and there was no regret or distrust in her, just joy that they had both found someone, someone worthy of the other.

“And love is what will save us, you already know that Xander.” Willow spoke, holding some tea, as she sat on Xanders’ other side. “Your love saved this world once, it saved me many times, so I think with the amount of love present here, we can’t lose.”

Xander and Faith both smiled as she joined them. Inside they heard discussion, plans being made, Giles looking up stories of the Ori, but outside there was quiet. They had decided not to tell the younger slayers anything, just that there might be an apocalypse coming, and that they were getting ready for it. Only if they were needed would the truth be told, because at that point most of the Earth would know anyhow. The three Scoobies sat together on the top step, with Faith wrapped in Xanders arms and legs, they all looked to the stars, and hoped. They all hoped that love, faith, and heroes would win the day and save the Earth.

The End

Feed Nycorson
Visit Nycorson
Return to Writercon Archive
Main