Hey everyone, sorry for the long time to update. I've been busy with work and ground school and I've really struggled with the direction I wanted this story, and the character relationships to go. Anyway I think I've got it figured out now so here's the first of what I hope will be a few quick updated chapters

Chapter 17

For a few fleeting days, things seemed back to normal in Sunnydale, or at least as close to normal as Sunnydale ever got. Xander patrolled, trained, and in the spots in between tried to act the part of a normal teenager. And then Faith showed up, and suddenly things got… complicated.

They were out for a night at the Bronze when they saw her first, dancing with what they quickly suspected was a vampire. When the group followed the couple outside, they were treated to the spectacle of Faith totally going to town on the vamp. Faith snagged Buffy's stake and jammed it home, introducing herself at the same time.

It was obvious from the moment they met her that Faith was an entirely different type of slayer than Buffy or Kendra. She seemed to be fuelled entirely on emotion, often hitting a vampire more than was strictly necessary before she staked them. While Buffy fought with a smooth grace that had an undercurrent of efficiency, Faith was a down and dirty brawler. But what she lacked in training she certainly seemed to make up for in ferocity. Xander couldn't help but be somewhat attracted not just to her stunning looks, but her sultry and energetic attitude as well. Still, while he liked her, her extended stay in Sunnydale posed a problem for him, and for the group too. In order to bring her into the group really, she had to be made aware of Xander and Cortana, and no one was really sure they were ready to do that yet.

"What do we know about her, really?" Buffy asked. "Yeah she's a slayer and everyone seems to like her but can we trust someone we met with this information? What if she tells the Watcher's Council?"

"I understand there are risks Buffy, but we can't very well keep it from her if we're going to be working with her, can we?" Giles replied. "I'm certain Xander's not willing to stop patrolling indefinitely, and we certainly can't work closely with the girl and keep this from her, we rely far too much on Cortana for research."

"The communicators would probably be hard to explain too," Willow added.

"She just seems… shifty," Buffy said, biting her lip. "Something's up with her that she's not telling us. Xander, what do you think?"

Xander thought for a moment. Faith was outgoing and loved to tell stories from her slaying adventures, but she would deflect certain questions and every once in a while, the mask would slip, just for a tiny second. "I think you're right Buffy, she's not telling us something. But we need to tell her sometime if she's going to stay here. Tell you what, I'll hold off for a couple days while we figure out what's going on. But unless she gives us a reason not to trust her, I'm going to tell her. I don't see any other choice."

Three days later everything was brought to light when Kaskistos showed up, and after Buffy helped Faith take him down, Xander decided to call a meeting to clear the air and bring Faith into the group.

A nervous looking but defiant Faith sat in the library with her arms crossed, staring at the Scoobies, sans Cortana, assembled in front of her. "Look, what's this meeting about yo? I said I was sorry for the whole Kakistos thing, that was my bad. It won't happen again."

Giles nodded. "We know Faith, this isn't about that. But if you're going to stay here and work with us, there are some things you need to be made aware of."

"Please don't tell me you just called me here to have a ground rules meeting, cause you're wasting your time," Faith said, rolling her eyes. "I play by my rules, and if you don't like it that's too bad."

Buffy rolled her eyes, "Relax Faith, nothing like that. It's just that there's some stuff about, well, maybe I should let Xander explain."

"Thanks Buff. Okay Faith, did anyone tell you about the Halloween incident last year?"

"Incident? Is that you being all diplomatic about getting drunk and waking up next to someone you don't know or something?"

Xander grinned. "Oh if only it were that simple. No, what happened was that last year a chaos mage came to town and opened a costume shop. He sold a bunch of people in town costumes, then Halloween night he cast a spell that turned everyone into what they were wearing. Willow was wearing a ghost costume, and turned into a ghost, Buffy here turned into a helpless 19th century noblewoman-"

Faith burst out laughing. "You're shitting me, B was all helpless and girly and afraid? Damn I woulda paid good money to see that."

"And I," Xander continued while trying to stifle a laugh, "dress up as the Master Chief, you know, from the Halo games? Thing is, I didn't just turn into the Master Chief, I also got a tagalong."

"Yeah, Cortana right?" Faith asked. "What, none of you play video games once in a while?" Faith asked as the others stared at her in surprise.

"You're right Faith. Anyway the thing is, when Giles broke the spell and turned everyone back into themselves, since Cortana wasn't overriding anyone's personality like all the other costumes, she didn't go anywhere." To back up Xander's claim, Cortana, using her old translucent avatar, shimmered into view near the table.

She waved to Faith. "Hi Faith, nice to finally meet you." She then flickered for a moment and reappeared in her human styled form. "Sorry about keeping you in the dark, but this was a big decision on our part."

Faith was trying to keep a composed look, but wasn't having a lot of success. Finally she burst out, "Are you SHITTING ME?! This is a joke, right? Like a magic trick or something?"

"No joke, and actually there's more," Xander replied. "See, thing is, in order for Cortana to survive in this reality, the suit couldn't turn back into a costume, because then it wouldn't have had any place to store her. And no normal human could survive in that armour, so, in order for both me and her to remain alive…"

"If you're about to say what I think you are-"

"Yeah," Xander nodded, "I'm a Spartan. Super strength, biomechanical implants, increased bone density, the whole deal."

Faith laughed. "You know what? You almost had me. The Cortana thing was a great trick, but if you really wanted to sell if you shoulda brought the armour!"

"Armour's wrecked, that's a whole other story," Cortana said. "But we don't need it to give you proof. Buffy, Xander? Care to give a demonstration?"

Xander nodded and Buffy grinned. "I always like sparring with Xander, he's so much harder to break than Giles."

The group cleared room in the center of the library while Xander and Buffy put on some light sparring gloves, then moved into the center. Faith watched with interest as the two circled slowly. Xander looked at Buffy seriously. "Don't hold back okay? We need to put on a good show here."

Buffy just grinned and winked at him, then she attacked. She jumped up, starting with a flying kick before moving in with a barrage of punches and kicks as she moved around him. Xander, while mostly on the defensive, was there to block almost all of them and those that he couldn't he absorbed with little more than a grunt. Faith took a moment to appreciate her sister slayer's smooth and fluid, almost dance like style before shifting her attention to Xander. Xander was definitely not as flowing, but it wasn't for lack of skill or technique. His fighting style was simply more about results than style or smoothness. Every move was the shortest possible movement, as economic as possible. Though he kept from hitting her hard, Faith could tell that most of his blows were designed to be incapacitating at full strength. Unlike Buffy, who would wear an opponent down, Xander was more about breaking them. Each move if it connected was designed to reverse joints, break bones, or disable the target in some way. It looked very military and Faith suspected it would be quite effective if Xander was actually trying to take down his opponent.

As this was a sparring match however, Xander's style was actually kind of handicapping him. He wasn't actually trying to put his moves to best effectiveness, unlike Buffy who was definitely connecting more often and harder. After a few minutes of this, Buffy wrestled Xander to the ground and trapped his head in a leg lock. Xander struggled for a moment but even with his Spartan upgrades he still wasn't as strong as a slayer, so finally he tapped out. Buffy released him and they both stood up, out of breath and in Xander's case pretty sore.

"You were still pulling your punches Xander!" Buffy accused.

"Yo B, you should be glad he was. I saw at least three moves that would've broken bones," Faith said. "And by the way, a leg lock?"

Buffy just batted her eyes at Xander. "It worked didn't it?"

Xander turned slightly red and smiled. "No objections here." He turned to face Faith. "So there you go, I just went head to head with a Slayer for a few minutes, no normal human could do that. You've met Cortana, and I think you know at this point that we're not pulling your leg."

Faith considered this, then nodded. "Okay X-man, I believe you."

Xander nodded. "Good. Now Faith, I want you to understand that the reason we're telling you this is because we trust you, and we want you to do the same. This is our secret, very few people know about it and we don't want the Watcher's Council finding out. Can we trust you?"

Faith nodded, "My lips are sealed yo. But what's with the hush up? Don't you think the boys at the council would be happy to know that we've got some solid backup out here?"

Giles sighed and rubbed his glasses. "I actually rather think they'd try to get Xander under their thumb, something I believe would go badly for both parties."

"Also, we've had a couple of altercations with the military and we'd prefer to keep a low profile," Cortana added. "Some high level politicians and agencies have been making inquiries, and I think as a general rule when politicians start snooping around, it's probably a bad thing."

"Do I even want to know?" Faith asked, looking amused.

Xander waved his hand. "There was thing whole thing with this evil guy Warren and some robots he made attacking a military base, and we may or may not have busted through in a jeep with a huge gun on the back."

"And then there was your crash landing in the desert," Willow pointed out. "That probably raised some eyebrows."

Faith grinned. "Okay, you gotta tell me about the army base."

Buffy nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah it was great, I got to use a rocket launcher!"

"So Xander's a Spartan, Willow's training to be a witch, you've got a virtual person in the room with us, anything else to make our lives interesting?" Faith asked.

"My boyfriend's a werewolf," Willow added. "Don't forget that. And don't slay him, that's not allowed."

"Man, you're a messed up little group, you know that?" Faith said with a laugh.

"And now you're part of it," Xander said, presenting Faith with a communicator. "You can use this to contact any of us, anytime and anywhere. Welcome to the team."

Faith nodded, then smiled. "So, what's this about you driving a jeep through an army base?"

Colonel Jack O'Neill walked into Carter's lab, bored and looking to pester his 2IC for a while until he could actually get her to stop working and join the team for a night off that night. "Caaaaarter, don't you ever just stop?" He asked. "When was the last time you went home?"

"I'm sorry sir, I've just been really wrapped up with this whole Pelican thing. The potential technological gains we could make are massive." Carter replied, not looking up. "If we could reverse engineer the technology for the inertial dampeners we could-"

"Ah! I get it, it would be good. But you know what else would be good? A beer and a hockey game. Some people refer to it as recreation, you may be familiar with the concept, at least in theory." Jack replied sarcastically.

Before he could say more his cell phone rang. He sighed and picked it up. "O'Neill here."

"Jack! How are you doing these days?" A very unwelcome voice replied.

"I was doing just fine Maybourne, until you called," Jack answered grumpily. "What do you want?"

"Is that any way to treat a friend?" Maybourne asked in a mock wounded tone.

"No but fortunately you don't fall into that category," Jack replied. "Now I'll ask again, why are you calling?"

"To business then, fine. I was made aware of your little find in the desert, the one that seems to have come right out of a video game." Maybourne said.

Jack rolled his eyes. "I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Of course not, why would you?" Maybourne deadpanned. "Look, I'm just calling because I think you might want to know that this may not be an isolated incident. I'm sending you a video file I pulled off a security camera from a military base about 150 miles from the crash site."

Jack motioned for Carter to pull up his email. She did so, and opened up a video of what appeared to be a Warthog driving through the gate and opened fire with a large gun. A man and woman were in the front seats, their faces obscured by the curve of the windscreen. However, clearly visible at the controls of the gun was what was clearly identifiable as the Master Chief.

"Oh for crying out loud! That can't be real!" Jack shouted.

"I assure you it is," Maybourne said. "But what's really interesting about this video is that it was taken four months before the ship crashed in the desert."

"I'm sorry Maybourne, I must have misheard you. Did you say something crazy like this happened BEFORE the ship crashed?"

"You heard me right. Now, I'm not one to try and tell someone how to do their job and all," Jack could hear Maybourne's smug smile, "but if I were in the business of defending the planet from aliens, I might be inclined to check this out. Especially since the NID is already looking into it. And you know how reliable and forthcoming they can be."

"Of course. So why are YOU being so forthcoming?" Jack asked. "What's your angle, Maybourne?"

"This time there's no angle, I swear. Just keep in mind that you owe me a favour, and one day I might come to collect," Maybourne replied. "And be careful out there, I can't collect my favour if you get killed."

"Your concern is touching," Jack said sarcastically. He hung up and looked to Carter. "Call Hammond, I think a trip to California is in our very near future."

End Chap 17

I know this is a bit of a short chapter but I hope to have another one up very soon. Thanks for reading and please leave a review!