A Summer Interlude, part III
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through both parts of “Becoming”. Events have now veered off from canon, so you may need to read earlier chapters first.
A/N2: This chapter takes place over the summer holidays, and doesn’t cover any canon stories.
Xendra turned to Giles. “Hey G-man, any chance we can get Buffy to swing by and take out four fledges before she runs off again?”
Giles gave him a glare that should have burned holes in him. “I do not find any humor in that whatsoever.” He focused on the problem. “Furthermore, if we have four fledges rising on the same night, then it is highly likely that we have a cadre of vampires involved-”
“Not a junta?”
Giles pretended to ignore him. “-and as such, there might be threats more dire than a rising fledgling with an uncontrollable hunger.”
Oh, right. Nothing more fun than going out to deal with one still-buried fledge and running into the sire, who maybe invited the neighbors over to see the new baby. He’d seen Buffy run into that ickiness.
Giles pointed out, “And it is not as if I am ready to perform my usual functions of researcher, long-range weaponry provider, and regular receiver of blunt-force trauma.”
Xendra figured he needed to put his two cents in. “Look, I know the Buffster likes to tease you about getting a concussion about every other Tuesday, but I know about getting hit, and if you got concussions that often, you’d be in a coma.”
Giles reminded him, “You have one magically transformed female, a young woman still recovering from a concussion and bruising, and a young woman who has studiously avoided getting involved in assisting Buffy.”
“And Cordelia,” Xander added.
“I meant Miss Chase, although Miss Madison falls into the same category.”
Xendra wondered aloud, “Any chance Broom-hilda could loan us her two mooks for the night?”
Giles rolled his eyes. “I suspect that they quite deliberately will have left Sunnydale before dusk. And I suspect that the elder is fully aware that you were insulting her at every opportunity, even if it is rather unlikely that anyone other than Jenny got that ‘resistance is futile’ remark. I didn’t, but I recognized the look in your eye that indicated it was yet another pop culture reference used to cause an affront.”
Xendra explained about Star Trek and the Borg, and Giles even managed a slight smirk. The G-man said, “I can tell that you are thinking of something, but I have no idea what it might be unless it is going to be too dangerous to consider.”
He admitted, “Remember when I got the full-body Willow-tackle? And I didn’t fall over?”
Giles paused for a moment. “Do you really think you might have the body of Xena, rather than merely a female form?”
Xander pursed his lips. “I think it’s worth checking out. I doubt I’m Slayer 2: Electric Boogaloo, but if… they can rebuild him… make him better than before… then I think we gotta give it a try.”
“And could you endeavor to maintain proper British speech patterns while you are my niece?”
The first person Xendra called was… Cordelia Chase. “Hello, Mrs. Chase, this is Xendra Giles, I was hoping I might speak with your charming daughter.”
It took about two minutes to get Cordy on the line. “What is it this time?”
Xendra didn’t bother to try and weasel out of it, since he was asking her for yet another favor. “Is there a place in town I can test out how fast I can run and how much I can lift, without everyone else finding out?”
“Oh God, don’t tell me you think you turned into Xena!”
Xendra admitted, “I think I picked up something, but I’m not sure how much. It’s not like I’m going to be slaying dragons and gods and Callisto. But we’ve got another bite-related problem and I need to find out if I should even consider trying to handle it. In the dead of night. In a cemetery.”
Cordelia griped, “Do not get yourself killed! My mother’s expecting me to invite you over for dinner pretty soon!”
“Well, heaven forbid I cause your mother to be disappointed in you,” he said as sarcastically as he could manage. “Anyway, I’m not even going to consider it unless I can bench a lot more than Xander, and perform a lot better with a sword, and be able to outrun anything I can’t stake.”
Cordelia thought out loud. “The fitness room at the club would be the opposite of private, and if you came over here, mother would insist on intruding… And anyway, it’s not like treadmills do Slayer sprint speeds… The weight room and track at the school are just chock full of jocks and goons, and there is no way I’m going over there in the dead of night without Buffy to beat up whatever finds us… Okay, I can take you over to Harmony’s house and we can use her dad’s workout room for the bench pressing, but I’ll have to think about the sprintage. And you’d better be wearing your exercise outfit for those sprints.”
So he called up Willow and asked her. Willow bubbled, “Ooh, Harmony’s dad’s workout room sounds pretty much of the good. Then you can come over here. I’m sure I can rig up something to measure velocity and acceleration if you’re just running in my back yard.”
And while waiting for Cordelia to arrive, he shoved the exercise stuff into a bag, and then worked out with one of Giles’ swords in the living room.
There wasn’t much doubt about it. Xendra was stronger than Xander, and quicker than Xander, and had muscle memory that Xander was still training himself on. Xendra could slice her way through the hardest sword forms Xander could remember, and she could get her muscles to perform sword forms Xander hadn’t even recalled yet.
Cordelia drove up and didn’t bother to come to the door. She just called Xendra on the phone while she was driving.
Xendra checked with Giles, “You going to be okay while I’m out?”
Giles gave him a smirk. “Oh no problem, have a lovely time with the other girls, and do try not to charge too much on your credit card, because your mother will have words with me.”
Xendra grabbed the bag and headed out.
Cordelia waited until he was buckled in her sports car, and then she glared, “I cannot believe what you’re wearing! Did you go shop at Target with fat people? Those pants are at least one size too large, and that blouse simply does not go with cargo pants. Even worse, it’s out of style!”
Xendra shrugged. “I bought it when I was figuring I only had to get through another couple days. Now I’m stuck until August before we can do the spell to fix me back.”
Cordelia muttered, “At least I can tell Harmony that these aren’t your real clothes and all the stuff you brought was stolen when you and your uncle got attacked. You know, I don’t like lying.”
He started to toss a nasty reply back at her, and he realized Cordelia didn’t lie much. If at all. Other than the whole ‘Buffy and vampires’ deal, Cordy tended to be brutally honest 24x7. He asked, “What do you do when your mom asks you if her new outfit makes her look fat?”
Cordelia fumed, “First of all, my mom is not fat! And she would never be that crass. And if she does consult with me, I give her my expert opinion, including what colors she should accessorize with, and what tailoring is still needed.”
He checked, “So… if I needed to look okay for a bunch of Watchers who are coming to hassle Giles about the whole Acathla deal…”
Cordy glanced over at him. “What impression are you trying to make?”
Man, that was a damn good point. Cordelia the fashion maven was a lot sharper than Cordelia the kid stuck in a class she hated.
Cordy apparently thought he was not of the clueful, because she added, “You know. Are you the niece who is just leaving? The eye candy niece? The niece who is hard at work nursing the injured Watcher? The niece in the know but not part of the conversation? The niece who has to be included in the meeting? What?”
Xendra gritted his teeth, because he figured he was about to dive into something messy. “The last one. The niece who has to be in the meeting. Giles figures I can say stuff about Buffy that would get him shitcanned. And I do know more about what went down with Acathla than anyone else except the Buffster, and she’s taken a powder.”
Cordelia complained, “Anyone ought to know not to have sex with vampires and demons. Especially Vampire Slayers.”
Xendra reminded her, “You were totally hitting on Angel too, remember?”
Cordy shrugged slightly as she turned a corner without signaling. “That was back before I found out about the whole ‘mass murdering monster of the centuries’ deal… and before he offered to cut me into fun-sized pieces and make me into pop art.”
“Yeah, that Angelus, what a wacky funster!”
Cordy didn’t glance over, but she pointed out, “Sometimes you talk just like Xander. You might want to watch that.”
Xendra emphasized the accent. “Oh dear. Heaven forbid that I sound like one of you Yanks.”
Cordelia just agreed. “Right. Xendra Giles, granddaughter of the current Baron Haightwood, is totally not going to start with the dialogue right out of ‘The O.C.’ or anything.”
“Been checking in Debrett’s?”
Cordy explained, “My mother had to check out Mister Giles. And you. Did you know Giles has a Ph.D. in ancient languages? From Oxford? And he’s the third son of a real British lord? I can’t believe someone like that is playing librarian here.”
Xendra admitted, “He did explain my ‘cover’ so I heard about it. The Giles family and a bunch of other barons and knights got the sword-whack on the shoulder for Watcher stuff over the centuries. Mainly when there was especially nasty vamp or demon business in England or an important colony. But the rule is the heir doesn’t get to go risk his neck in Watcher business. That gets dumped on third or fourth sons, or sometimes second or third daughters. First daughters tend to be married off in Council alliances.”
Cordelia muttered, “Sounds lovely. Not! But does that mean that Xendra Giles could end up really being in the Council?”
“The real Xendra. If she’s interested, and she goes through all the Council studies. But they’re not going to be interested in Xander Harris.”
Cordy rolled her eyes. “Well, that’s stupid. Xander’s a dork, and he’s got the dress sense of a hobo, but I bet none of those jerks ever thwarted a prophecy and saved a Slayer, or dissed half the Scourge of Europe to their face. Which was really incredibly of the stupid, considering.”
“Thank you Miss Chase, for that charming compliment with sufficient backhand that you should consider playing at Wimbledon.”
She nodded, “Now that’s the way I want you talking the whole time we’re at the Kendalls’.”
They pulled up to a really nice house that Xander hadn’t ever been in. It wasn’t nearly as big and mansion-ly as Cordelia’s, but it made Willow’s house feel embarrassed, and it made Buffy’s house look like a rental for college guys.
When Harmony’s maid let them in and Cordelia led Xendra up to Harmony’s room, Harmony greeted Cordelia with a big smile and let Cordy introduce the Honorable Xendra Helaine Devaney Giles.
“Just ‘Xendra’, please. And I’d rather not spend my vacation answering questions about why Uncle Rupert isn’t called ‘Lord Giles’.”
Harmony promptly showed why she wasn’t a threat to Cordy’s reign as Queen C. “Do people really wear tacky pants like that in England? Because totally not your best look, I hope.”
Cordy snapped, “Nice work, Harm. Just alienate visitors first thing!”
“I totally didn’t make her an alien!” Harmony fussed.
“You offended her,” Cordy insisted.
Xendra inserted, “All my suitcases were stolen. I’m wearing something a friend of Willow Rosenberg’s was kind enough to pick up for me, until mother and father either send me some of my other clothes, or else relent and let me spend money on local clothiers.”
“Oh. Sorry. You wanna try some of my things? I could loan you something,” Harmony tried.
“No thank you,” Xendra said in his frostiest tones. Harmony’s sleazy minidresses and high heels? Ugh.
Cordelia insisted, “Well, since you’ve just insulted our guest, you won’t get to see what we’re trying out.”
Cordy led Xendra down to a well-appointed workout room in the basement. It had a Bowflex, one of those four-sided bench-press / leg-press /etc. workout systems, a fancy treadmill system, an electronic bicycle, and a Nordic skiing exercise system. She pointed at the bench press component and said, “Go crazy, Xena. Just reset it when you’re done so Mister Kendall doesn’t have a cow.”
Xendra said, “Stand back there and let me see if I can lift this, then we’ll keep adding weights until I max out.”
Cordy groaned, “Oh all right…” Like she was being asked to do the weightlifting, instead of moving a little key from place to place.
Xendra started lifting… and kept going. He finally gave up on his tenth lift, after Cordy had moved the key so Xendra was lifting about 800 pounds each time. But she knew she could do a little more.
Cordy winced, “I think that’s good enough. Unless Buffy benches Giles’ car.”
Xendra sighed, “At least I know I’m a lot stronger than Xander. I already found out I’m better with a sword. And now I need to go over to Willow’s for the speed tests.”
Cordy laughed, “What’s Willow gonna do? Build a radar gun?”
Xendra smirked, “Out of spare parts in a cave. Like Iron Man.”
“Holy crap, you weren’t kidding.” Cordelia was trying not to stare as they stood in Willow’s back yard.
Willow had an infrared signal, an infrared detector, and a laptop computer all set up for Xendra. Well, for Xander. And there was plenty of Willow-babble too: “…so all I needed was a measurement of the frequency of the infrared, and then I could compute the Doppler shift, and that part was easy when I already had…”
Xendra picked up a few pieces of the babble here and there, even if Xena had no idea about modern physics, so he was getting the big goose egg for help from those memories.
But some sprinting toward Willow on the lawn did two things: it told Willow that Xendra could sprint at about 35 miles an hour, and it got grass stains all over the front and sides of the pristine sneakers Cordy had just bought, so Miss Chase was pretty grouchy about that. Even if Cordy was the reason Xendra was wearing those sneakers and that exercise-wear. And a sports bra Cordy picked up because she knew Xendra would never think to buy one.
Willow grinned excitedly, “I got Buffy-measurements a couple months ago, and so I’ve got some estimates on average vamp speeds, so this is really good! You oughta be able to stay ahead of a fledgling, and a typical minion probably won’t be able to catch up with you if you have decent separation to start with, and if you started out about 150 yards away, it ought to take a master vamp maybe a whole minute or so to catch up to you, and you’d have plenty of time to lose ‘em or find a safe spot by then!”
Being able to outrun even a master vamp would be better. But as far as Xendra knew, even Buffy hadn’t had a lot of success chasing down master vamps like Angelus and Spike. Okay, Buffy didn’t have the longest legs known to man.
Not that he was ever going to say out loud that a certain someone was of the short, because a certain someone was also of the touchy on that subject.
Willow looked really worried as she asked, “You’re not really gonna go out there alone when we’ve got four fledges rising and maybe sires loose? Because mom and my doctor say I’m not up for anything more than walking around school yet, and we don’t have Buffy, and Cordelia doesn’t like doing the Scooby thing, and Giles can’t backstop you!”
Xander took a deep breath and exhaled. “I’ve got plans. And I need to talk to Amy. And then I need Cordelia to take me shopping for something sturdier than cheap cargo pants and sneakers.”
And that was why Xendra was walking through a cemetery when it was eleven at night. In Sunnydale. Possibly the most idiotic move possible, other than wandering blindfolded through those tunnels under the town and seeing if anything was hanging out around The Master’s old underground ‘temple’.
He was equipped for fledges, and he was just hoping he didn’t have to deal with Spike and Dru making a big surprise return, because he was totally not ready to handle a master vamp who had already been warned about any tricks by some creeptastic seer who still called him ‘Kitten’. He was wearing heavy black denim pants and black workboots with steel toes. Oddly enough, guys didn’t make a lot of workboots for women’s feet. Fortunately, Cordelia knew every clothing store in the Sunnydale area so she could overcome that little problem.
He was wearing a heavy black shirt over two sports bras. He would have gone for one of Uncle Rory’s solid steel ‘chestplates for chicks’ but he was worried that it might cut down on his mobility or his speed, and he was totally worried about having Xander’s Uncle Rory hitting on Xendra or ‘checking for fit’ a little too much, because Rory was like that with women, and Xander would rather die than have Xendra get molested by Uncle Rory. Instead, he had soaked the shirt in holy water before putting it on. California summer nights near the coast just didn’t cool down that much, so he was feeling wet and uncomfortable, but not cold.
Since he had all that convenient muscle memory working for him, he was going with a Roman cavalry sword slung diagonally across his back Xena-style. Giles had pretty much every sword known to man, plus every scabbard you could think of, and those Xena memories were telling him that he had the sword adjusted right. He just hoped he didn’t need to find out if his memories were really accurate.
He had a heavy belt with a knife scabbard and two stake loops on his left hip and a nice cloth bag hanging off his right hip. Willow had taught herself to sew just to make this for him, which made him feel really warm and goofy inside. The bag was square, with half a dozen layers of fabric sewn together so they made five really flat pockets you could slide a chakram in and out of without slicing your hand to shreds on the other chakrams and without having your metal chakrams all clinking and clanking against each other in a big ‘free eats’ vamp-signal.
He had a couple leather pouches tied to the front strap for the scabbard, and he had most of his usual toys in the pouches.
He had his hair pulled back, and Cordelia had insisted on putting it up in a French braid so there weren’t any convenient handholds for hungry hair-pullers. He wondered why Buffy never did that. Heck, he wondered why Watchers didn’t just tell their Slayers to hack all their hair off regularly to keep vamps from grabbing their hair and helping themselves to a quick snack. Or just breaking a Slayer’s neck.
Plus he had his one big surprise weapon, which wasn’t going to be a surprise at all if Drusilla was involved and getting her usual premonitions.
He had Willow’s estimated time of death for each victim, and also Willow’s estimated time of undeath, plus maps of the cemeteries where the fledglings would rise so he could find the graves in plenty of time. The first two newbies were in this one cemetery, so that was either good for travel time, or very bad. Willow was pretty worried that if there were two vamps rising within an hour of each other and within a couple hundred yards of each other, then someone might decide to show up and welcome the noobs to the fold. Willow called it a ‘kiss’ of vampires but that sounded way too creepy and Anne Rice.
He was gonna go with a ‘coagulation’ of vamps. Yeah.
He moved as quietly as he could to the grave Willow had marked as the most likely first to rise. Then he hunted around the immediate area looking for anyone or anything else that might be lying in wait. He’d seen Buffy get bushwhacked more than once.
Nothing. So he sat on a tombstone and settled in. Xena was used to patient stalking of prey whenever necessary. Xander Harris wasn’t. So he concentrated on checking his surroundings.
The soil in the center of the grave suddenly lurched upward a couple inches.
Showtime. He very carefully didn’t say it out loud. Even newbie vamps had stupidly good hearing.