Thoughts Before Battle

Author: mkcrl120 <mike_curl120[at]>

Disclaimer: All the characters mentioned in this story belong to Joss Whedon or Mutant Enemy or some other people. I own nothing and wrote this just to get it out of my system.

Summary: Two people's thoughts before a particular fight.

Rating: 15 probably… mainly for language.

Setting: Season 7... I think you'll recognise the episode.

A/N: In a bit of a self-plug - there are some other fics I've written that can be found here...

Chapter 1

Buffy turned to the rest of the group. "Shall we?" she asked them, as she began to head into the wine cellar.

Xander watched as Buffy strode away, leading Spike and most of the team away from him. Staring at Spike's back the whole time he glared until they started to enter the building. 'Once upon a time I would have been the one backing her up.' He thought bitterly. 'I know he's a more capable fighter than I am, but I'm still not convinced we should trust him. We're basing the ownership of a soul on what... Buffy's word... Spike's?'

Once Buffy and Spike were out of sight, his attention turned to the Potentials following them down. 'Jeez, I really hope I wasn't wrong back at the house. Cos right now, I'm getting the uneasy feeling that we aren't taking warriors in with us, we're taking a bunch of potentials all right... potential hostages.'

His eyes scanned those going down the steps, first Kennedy, then Rona, then that foreign girl that no-one had managed to understand yet. 'Yep... this is giving me a really bad vibe. I've definitely got to talk to Buffy about this, potential Slayers they may be... actual Slayers they're not. So mystical instincts and all aside, at best we've got a bunch of teenagers who've been to some self defence classes.' Xander lifted his free hand up to rub his eyes as he watched the final girl, Molly begin her descent of the steps. 'I did not fucking think that... how did I not realise this before? Training them to fight is all well and good, getting them to learn against Spike is even a good idea. They need to know how a vampire is likely to react when confronted with one... but taking them *into* the battleground, this has just hit the abso-fucking-lutely insane level of battle plans... Oz's humus idea was better than this.'

'I mean come on... we had members of the fucking Army on our doorstep a while ago... ex-Initiative members at that too. Why didn't we ask some of them to stay. *They* could have helped. They're obviously still keeping some kind of eye on us. And contacting Riley for decisions on how to act. Maybe it's not too late to call in help.'

'If I was an ex-member of the Initiative, what would I be doing to keep an eye on us? Come on brain think... you were possessed by a soldier. You knew enough current info to con your way onto an Army base. Think, think... okay think outside the box... less what you know and more of what you might have seen on those action films Andrew keeps renting. Don't think what would Bond do... don't think what would Bond do... A few video feeds around town. Maybe some people staying in the area, keeping an eye on things... though how would they be sure what we were up to..?'

He was focused on the doorway, ears listening intently as he continued to work through his musing in his head. 'Ensure Buffy's house is in view. Some customers at the Magic Shop... setup some cameras a the school. Being the Hellmouth, that would be something they would need to know about. I mean, even we did that when Buffy accep... Buffy's on the Hellmouth, I mean actually working on the Hellmouth, well she was... Monitor the Hellmouth and the Slayer all in one go... too tempting a target, they'd have to go for it... mind you setting up any cameras would be difficult I mean, *I'm* in charge on construction so that I'd know if they were...' He paused, letting out a deep breath. He smiled as he noticed Amanda look at him curiously, hoping it was comforting but knowing he couldn't afford to be dragged off this train of thought. 'Jeez, they could get someone to work alongside me... helping construct the actual building they're trying to lay cameras in. And we're *paying* them to do it. They could be monitoring me... seeing how often I appear agitated or tired... or make excuses after recieving phone calls off Buffy... or phone in sick cos I'm injured. They could be monitoring *me*... for like most of a year now.'

Xander had a faraway look in his eyes as he was trying to work out if he should be flattered or offended.

'Okay... first things first... once tonight's over need to speak to Buffy about bringing Riley in on it... she might not want to work alongside him or his wife but this is more important. Hell, if I can work alongside her.' Xander's eyes flicked towards Faith, the first time he'd looked at her all night. 'How the hell, did I get stuck on her team?' He mused, eyes never leaving her face. 'I mean I'd prefer to be on *Spike's* than hers. Well, actually I'd prefer to be on Buffy's, and Spike could be with Faith... those two deserve each other.'

Then he thought about it a little more. 'Other than the fact that I wouldn't trust the two of them together... they'd probably disappear and forget to back us up... and there's no way I'd be willing to let them go down first. Probably make some sort of deal with this preacher and screw us all over.'

'Dammit, I've just justified my being stuck with Faith. I really hope these aren't gonna be the teams from now on.' His eyes continued to stare directly at Faith's face. He didn't even flinch when she turned to face him.


'What the fuck is his problem?' Faith thought to herself. 'He's been staring at me for a while now. You wanna say something Boytoy then just say it.'

'I know we got issues... one particular fucking major one at that. But do something... say something... you wanna free shot? You got it... fuck I owe you more than that. But stop looking at me like that.'

She contemplates lighting up a cigarette to calm her nerves. 'No... no calming of anything. You need to be on edge Faith... some of your fri... nah... that's just living in denial, remember what the psyches at priz said, that shit ain't useful. Fuck, remember the level of fucking denial you got into after an accident. A fucking accident. And if what Fang said is true, the accident they could have worked through... it was the shit that happened afterward when they gave up on me... after *I'd* already given up on them. So fucking keep it real girl... these ain't your friends, your friends... the only ones you have in the fucking world are back in L.A., where you'd have quite happily stayed or even returned to prison if Willow hadn't fucking talked you into this little sidetrip. Some people you are working with are in the cellar trying to discover what this year's bad is up to... for fucks sake, you hung around with one of the years's bads and you never got the four-one-one on what an Ascension actually was until Fang explained it to you....'

'No time for that now... concentrate... once you've helped them deal with this shit, you can get back to L.A. and sort out exactly how you're going to go about dealing with the whole escaped-from-jail thing... especially as they'd never let you have another visitor again, and you practically lived for Fangs' trips... Shit, now *that* is one seriously fucking depressing thought.'

'Okay, bad thoughts can come later... concentrate on the now... you've been sidelined as babysitter to a group that consists of Xander and some girls that... if you've understood this correctly... have absolutely no fucking powers between them. Okay, give Xander his dues, he has survived for seven years on a Hellmouth. But the girls... To make it worse, B's decided to take some more of the girls like this into the lion's den with her... why don't we just put an add out for martial artists wanting to be nocturnal vigilantes and be done with it.'

She glanced to her right, Xander was still fucking staring at her. 'Shit, it's not like I object to a bit of male perusal, but for fucks sake look at my tits or my ass... that I could cope with. Not the side of my face, or into my fucking eyes like you're trying to see what's wrong with my soul. Jeez Xan, you want a pop at me? Feel free. You want me dead? Go ask your friend Red, heard some scary shit about her, I probably wouldn't even cause her to raise a sweat... not that you'd be able to guess from the babbling woman that accompanied me to the 'Dale. Shout at me. Blame me. Beat the shit out of me... I won't raise one fucking hand against you, not even to block a punch... Hell, you want to fuck me and make me your bitch... I'd probably even consider it... and not just because I've been without stick for a loooong time.'

She raised her own eyes to meet his. He stared back without blinking. Maintaining eye contact, she tried to see what he was thinking. 'Well, if eyes are the doorway to the soul, Xander's have got a massive fucking lock on his... Just say something. Come on, where's the kid I used and losed? He never shut the fuck up... hell, if you don't want to do it for me, do it for the two kids standing there. Say something encouraging to them... you were all Buffy-is-da-bomb back at the house, where's that guy gone? Is he only on vacation cos I'm here, cos if so, I'm more than willing to walk towards the door and smoke one, so that you can do your thing... make them feel better.'

Then it hit her, once upon a time he'd come to her door offering words of encouragement, help if he could. 'All that time inside. All the nights thinking about how I was so fucking close to killing him... not even sure myself whether I would have or not if Fang hadn't turned up... All those fucking nights debating that single event... the one that lost me my only chance with the Scoobs, the one thing they could never have forgiven... Fuck, Angel thinks that some of them haven't forgived him for Jenny and he wasn't actually the one that did that. I've never looked at what was said before we hit the bed... shit, the guy was being fucking genuine even back then.'

She continued to stare back. 'So he's gotta be thinking that I took my chance and spat it back in his face. And I don't warrant a second one... fuck, looking at it like that I'd have killed any bastard that did it to me. Shit!! Fuck!! This must be what redemptions about... what Fang and the prison people talked about... it's not about sitting in a cell, getting your mind straight; or about hanging out in L.A. helping some friends with the lawyer issues... it's about facing the people you hurt and actually sitting there waiting for their judgement.'

Faith sighed heavily. She was aware that he was still staring at her, she was also aware that her breasts heaved a fair way during that last sigh and his eyes didn't even flicker. 'What the fuck do you want from me? Will you please fucking say something?' But how could she comment on his lack of words when she couldn't even voice her own inner thoughts. 'Why does it seem that he can read me completely, whereas I ain't got a fucking clue what he's thinking.'

'So Faith,' she thought, looking deep into his eyes. 'So how do you want to play it..? Fang hardly hung around and made it up to G, did he?' She tried to squash that line of reasoning as it appeared. 'So you gonna play it Fang's way and hide out, doing good amongst some strangers who don't know the full history... or stay and do the hard thing. Help out amongst the people *you* hurt. Who all have good reason to hate your guts.'

She knew the answer instinctively. 'Face your demons... the psyche officer always told me. *Hah* I'd prefer to face real ones thanks... least the wounds they cause heal.'

But she wasn't a quitter, and she didn't want to be. 'And as a Slayer I not only don't get the unlimited lifespan Fang has to work his way through his issues, I might not even get the couple of years to decide I regret this decision and want to confront him about it. Only one thing left to do girl...' She turned to face him, now his attention is on one of the other girls, '*Now*?' She thinks, looking up at the sky in disbelief. 'Not sure if you got any help due from that direction girl.' "Xan..." She said lightly.

He turns towards her. She hesitates for a brief moment, unsure how to begin. A thousand questions running through her mind, all of them consisting of asking how much he hates her wants her dead never wants to see her again. None seem appropriate. "Xander..?" She says again, 'Firstly do you want to say anything front of the others, or would you prefer to take him to the side? Come on, that's a simple decision... how exactly you're going to persuade him to go anywhere with you is a complete mystery. So it's here then,' she adds sarcastically. She opens her mouth to say something, anything... knowing that once the topic is out, he's either going to clamp down, shout at her or discuss it with her... She doesn't know which response scares her most.

A massive crash distracts everyone. Xander's moving in the direction of the wine cellar first, 'Fuck even the two Slayer-wannabe's reacted before me.' She thinks as she chases the others. Xander's reached the stairs and is heading down when her Slayer hearing picks up somone screaming Kennedy's name. 'That's the one Willow talked about.' Was her only thought, as she rapidly over took the other girls. Xander's got to the bottom stair and is taking aim, Faith's flying down the steps two at a time, glancing quickly at him as he releases the crossbow bolt. 'I'll call Fang and get his advice on how to approach the subject.' she thinks as she reaches the bottom of the stairs the fight, secretly glad of the distraction that means that the conversation gets put on a temporary hold. Clearing her mind, she notices the guy dressed as a preacher standing over one of the girls, deciding he's the main threat she charges directly at him.

The End