A Summer Interlude, part VI
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 got Cordelia’s maid, who hurried off to get Queen C herself.
“What is it this time, Dorkette?”
Xander confessed, “The Star Chamber will be here at ten. I need perfect hair and a perfect makeup job, and I don’t know who would be better at it than you.”
“Naturally,” Cordelia said without a drop of humility. “I’ll be there in one hour. Be fully dressed and ready for me. That means face washed and properly moisturized.”
“Understood, mon capitan!” Xendra snarked.
“You wish.” Cordy hung up on him.
He looked at Giles and sighed, “Okay, I need to shower and dress in Cordy’s idea of Council-wear. Then she’ll do my hair and makeup, so Niece Xendra is ready to meet the Inquisitors.”
“Xendra, this is not the Spanish Inquisition.”
“NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!” he announced. “Our greatest weapon is surprise! Surprise… and fear!”
“Yes, yes, your two greatest weapons, et cetera. Please go soak your head.”
Xendra cleaned up in the kitchen first. Otherwise, Giles would be limping around on his bad leg and doing it.
The shower didn’t take long, even if he still wasn’t used to washing hair that was almost down to his shoulderblades. And his legs felt weirdly immaculate with no hair at all, not even fine little baby hairs, until he got up to his butt.
He wasn’t going to ask Cordy how she remained hair-free, because the answer was probably a lot worse than ‘a bottle of Nair’.
He dried off and toweled his hair so it was only damp, not dripping wet, as per Colonel Cordy’s haircare orders. Man, did that girl have a lot of rules about hair and makeup and bodies and clothes and stuff. She was worse about hair and makeup than Xander’s Uncle Rory was about car engines.
He put his long hair up in rolls on top of his head, and he did the ‘moisturize your face’ thing Cordy insisted on. Which made no sense if he was only going to be stuck like this for a few months, instead of until old age, unless it mattered for the makeup. He debated with himself for a couple minutes on asking Cordy, but he figured she would actually tell him the truth.
Then he had to get dressed. In sexy lingerie and a prim business suit. If this didn’t work on the Council creeps, he was going to be really aggravated. No, he was already aggravated, but he would also be disgusted. And really cheesed off. And a pissed-off Xena was not of the fun.
So first, the bra. Even following Cordy’s instructions for bra-noobs, it wasn’t easy. He fastened it around his waist with the hooks in front. He turned it around so the hooks were in back. Then he slid it up his torso and leaned forward to get his bulges into the cups. With his bloating, the fit wasn’t quite as good as it had been the other day, and he was sort of bulging a little. He let the shoulder straps out a hair to deal with it. Then the garter belt and nylons, which looked embarrassingly slutty on his legs. The panties went on the outside, as Cordy had un-gently told him. After all, going pee with the panties inside the garters would be a huge hassle. Then the blouse, which was a motherfracker to get buttoned up the back. He was pretty sure he’d missed a button or two by the time he got to the collar. Then the brooch, which gave him sort of a ‘curvy librarian’ look. The skirt went after that, so the blouse was properly tucked in, and then the belt and shoes.
Man, walking around in heels was not as much fun as watching girls walking around in heels. But Cordy had given him marching orders on walking in heels too, so he just practiced that.
After maybe ten minutes of practice, Cordelia showed up. “You’re not wearing the suit jacket!”
He turned around. “I figured I got some buttons messed up and I’d need your help there too.”
“You are utterly hopeless, you know that?”
He admitted, “I’m glad to hear it. I only need to get through this one meeting, you know. And then a few months of being stuck as Xendra before the Gypsies turn me into a reeeeeal boy.”
Cordy smirked. “If you really were Xendra, I’d make a dirty joke.” He just waited patiently. “You know. The Pinocchio joke? I sit on your nose and say ‘lie, dammit!’” She looked at his expression and fumed, “What, you think girls never make with the dirty jokes and the crude comments? You are such a boy.”
Jeez, the stuff he was learning. Okay, Xena had known some jokes so filthy they’d make a centurion blush. But he didn’t think women were still like that. He’d ask Willow, but Will had pretty much heard every dirty joke he and Jesse had ever told each other, whether she had wanted to hear them or not.
Cordy fixed the buttons on the back of his blouse. “Not as horrible as I’d figured.”
He rolled his eyes. “If you keep complimenting me like that, you’ll turn my head.”
“Oh shut up, you doofus.” Then she made him sit down properly and keep his knees together while he sat. “Don’t do the crossing-and-uncrossing thing unless you actually WANT creepy old guys to think about porking you.”
He rolled his eyes. “This is ‘Remains of the Day’, not ‘Basic Instinct’ you know.”
She snickered. “You as Sharon Stone. That would be hilarious.”
“Do I get an icepick I can use on these guys?”
Cordy actually giggled. Wow, Queen C sure loosened up when she was dealing with her court instead of making the serfs cower in their fields.
Then he got hairdressing and makeup lessons from Queen C. He figured there were real girls who would be happy to kill their BFFs for a deal like that, but he was just having to endure it.
It was like watching Rembrandt paint a painting and knowing that all the instructions he gave you were impossible to duplicate. There was foundation. There was contouring that was slightly darker than the foundation, and some that was lighter. There was blending. There was blusher. There was more blending. There was eyebrow pencil. There was eyeliner. There was even more blending. There was eyeshadow, other eyeshadow, other-other eyeshadow, and yet another eyeshadow. Plus yet more blending. There was mascara. There was lipliner and lipstick. And there were directions on not touching the makeup, not smearing the makeup, not messing up the makeup, and quick touch-ups for when he did indeed mess up the makeup.
This was more complicated than high school chemistry. Even the advanced high school chemistry Willow made him take. Well that, and it was an artform. He’d never realized that before today. And now he was wondering how many ‘plain’ girls looked just as good as, say, Aura but just didn’t know how to apply makeup like Aura did. Or didn’t want to bother spending half an hour doing their makeup every day. And this crap was expensive, so a serious makeup-applier would go through a lot of cash just on makeup every month. And what happened when Aura or Harmony got a little tanned? Or when their tan faded? Shit, that would mean a different foundation and different contouring colors and different blusher and maybe even different eyeshadow colors and a different lipstick color.
How many years did it take to learn how to do this halfway decently? Okay, he didn’t want to know.
He just looked at himself and murmured, “I could never do this by myself.” Okay, he wasn’t sure anyone else could ever do this, because with the french braid and the elegant little tendrils of hair coming down on either side of his face and the makeup, he looked like Miss Universe England going to tea with the Queen. No wonder all those soldiers wanted to follow Xena. They were following her with their dicks, until they found out she was a better soldier than they were.
Cordy insisted, “Now remember, you’ll probably have to serve tea, or something British and girly. So when you drink your tea, you’ll get lipstick on the cup and you’ll need to touch up your lipstick. Here’s what you do…”
And Cordy even painted a slippery gel on his front teeth so the lipstick wouldn’t get all over them. She told him that beauty pageant contestants used to use Vaseline for this, and he just barely managed not to cringe.
She headed out, warning him that he had better not make her look bad.
From the living room, Giles cleared his throat, “And what precisely did Miss Chase mean by that?”
So Xendra walked out, carefully moving his feet in a straight line like Cordy insisted. He watched his accent and said, “I believe that Miss Chase is intent on my adhering to her tenets of beauty and femininity.”
Giles looked over and almost choked. “Good Lord. I had no idea Cordelia was going to turn you into Gemma Arterton. I think I’m going to get my crossbow out to keep Roger’s associates away from my niece.”
While they waited, they prepared some ‘real’ tea and Giles briefed Xendra on the arrivals. Since Roger Wyndham-Pryce and his snotty son had even met the real Xendra Giles when she was little, that could be an issue. Not a big issue though, because Roger’s son Wesley had been about ten or eleven when Xendra had been about five, and as far as ‘Uncle Rupert’ knew from his brother’s complaints, the boy had only interacted with Xendra enough to make her run crying to mummy.
Xendra sarcastically asked, “So, was this Wesley kid snotty enough to be a Watcher too?”
Giles rolled his eyes. “I believe he was head boy at the Watchers Academy. I recall his being quite the nuisance.”
“Great.” He corrected his accent, “Oh pardon me, I meant ‘smashing’.”
Giles just continued, “Let me think… I believe Roger is bringing Terence Randall-Travers, who is Quentin’s third cousin or something like that. A very serious archivist and researcher. You won’t have met him, but you would know the name Travers. And Nigel Weathermill. The Weathermills have been in the Council for over two centuries. He is, I believe, a trainer at the Academy these days, so he may be here to see what is working for us, and what is not. That may be… problematic. I believe Roger’s third associate will be a magic user, perhaps Hamilton Sirk. You wouldn’t know him, but you would have heard of his cousin Rutherford Sirk, who was quite the scandal when he switched sides a few years ago. However, there are likely to be a couple bodyguards as well. Do not take them lightly. They will be fully-trained, probably former SAS or something else bloody dangerous before they were recruited for their role in the Council. They will be heavily armed to deal with vampires, a variety of common demons… and humans as well.”
“You are flooding me with confidence, Uncle Rupert.”
Giles sat painfully in his good armchair, while Xendra pulled out several chairs from the dining table. And they waited.
At ten on the dot, there was a brisk knock on the door. Xendra rose and walked over. He opened the door and stepped to the side, carefully not inviting anyone in.
The guy at the front of the group looked like a sixty-ish Brit sour enough to have given Principal Snyder mean-lessons. He had a neatly trimmed beard and mustache that made him look slightly satanic, instead of cultured. He turned toward Giles and complained, “This is not Miss Summers!”
Giles carefully put his hands on his cane to point out that he wasn’t doing all that great. “And hello to you too, Roger. It has been a while, hasn’t it?”
So this was Roger Wyndham-Pryce. The guy stomped in and insisted, “Rupert, you did not answer my question.”
Giles just said, “Perhaps we could continue this conversation with the door closed. Sunnydale has a wide variety of disadvantages, even during the daytime.”
The 5’10” weightlifter-type cleared his throat. “Sir, I believe that is an excellent idea. We did see a Loose-Skinned Demon walking down the street in plain view with a bag of groceries in hand not ten minutes ago.”
“Good point, Michaels,” Roger conceded.
After Roger The Crabcake and Mister Muscles, there were four more men. There was a fifty-ish guy in thick glasses who was so librarian-esque he made Giles look like James Bond. There was a mid-thirties guy who obviously thought he was suave, what with the smirk and the hairstyle and the turtleneck under a blazer. Oh, and there was some weaponry under that blazer, if Xendra was any judge of things. There was an ordinary-looking guy around forty who just felt weird, like there was a heavy-duty magic spell around him, like what Xander Harris had felt back in the library when the re-ensoulment spell was tried. And on their six, protecting everyone else’s back, was a tough-looking guy who looked like an ex-boxer who still started barfights for fun.
Giles stayed in his chair. “Roger, I would get up and make the introductions, but my right leg is still not up to snuff. However, this is my niece Xendra. I believe your family met my brother’s family about ten or eleven years ago at the estate?”
Roger looked Xendra in the eye, and his eyebrows rose in surprise. “Good G… Miss Giles, you have grown quite a bit.”
Xendra calmly pointed out, “Mister Wyndham-Pryce, that was quite a long time ago. I was only… perhaps five. It is hardly surprising that I am no longer that size.”
Then Roger made the introductions, while Xendra made tea. Giles had been dead on. Mister Muscles was Dean Michaels, and Barfight Guy was Howard Cartwright. Super Librarian was Terence Randall-Travers from the Council archives, Smarm Master was Nigel Weathermill from the Watchers Academy, and Mister Magic was Hamilton Sirk.
Oh yeah, and Smarm Master was checking out the teenager every time he thought Xendra wasn’t looking at him. Sleazebag.
Ol’ Roger sipped his tea and turned to Giles. “Rupert, your father sends his regards.” Before Giles could make a polite reply, Roger added, “And I believe it is time for your niece to leave before we continue the discussion.”
Giles cleared his throat carefully and stammered, “I-I think not, given the circumstances.”
“And what circumstances might those be?” Roger asked harshly.
Xendra figured he would let Giles play ‘mild-mannered reporter’ and he would do the Cordy thing: letting his PMS crank up that inner Callisto. “I believe that what Uncle Rupert is having trouble mentioning is the unfortunate fact that I was kidnapped by Drusilla’s minions as well, and I was the only being who was both alive and conscious for the relevant portions of the finale of this attempted apocalypse.”
Giles added, “And I regret to inform you that Kendra The Slayer is dead.”
Nigel the trainer winced at that. “And do you have any information on how that could have happened?”
Giles admitted, “I was quite unconscious at the time.”
Xendra insisted, “I, however, was not. She attempted to fight Drusilla the Mad in a hand-to-hand battle. Surely the Council does not encourage direct conflict with vampires who have psychic powers, because it clearly was ineffective. Drusilla blocked every attack as if it had been choreographed for her, and then used hypnosis to ensnare a Slayer in only five seconds or so. At that point, Drusilla slit the Slayer’s throat. It was… Gruesome does not begin to describe it.”
Archive Man managed, “Rupert’s records claiming that Drusilla was still alive were not considered particularly… reliable, given the reports we had from several Council members in Prague, but I gather she was fully recovered from any injuries.”
“Quite,” Xendra said, with as much snippy as he could get without overdoing the accent.
Roger asked, “And this happened in the effort to re-seal Acathla? We did provide Kendra with a blessed sword for that purpose.”
“On the contrary,” Xendra insisted. “The two Slayers hatched a plan which was executed the evening before, and part of which I witnessed. Apparently, the Kalderash clan put a curse on Angelus in the 1890’s, and ripped the soul of the original man out of his just reward and forced it into the body of Angelus, turning it into a ‘vampire with a soul’ to punish the demon while simultaneously torturing a human soul possibly for all eternity. I’m surprised a spell that dark didn’t create its own Hellmouth.”
Terence nervously admitted, “It would appear that it did have rather unpleasant side-effects on the bloodline of the Elder who performed the curse, and the Kalderash have continued to dwindle ever since.”
Xendra explained, “Uncle Rupert discovered that one of the Kalderash had been planted in the school as a teacher to watch Angelus and make sure the curse was still in place. But it turned out there was some sort of loophole or deficiency in the curse, and it broke while William the Bloody and Drusilla the Mad were in town, leading to a recombination of most of The Whirlwind. Uncle Rupert and the Slayers forced the Gypsy to attempt a re-ensoulment curse precisely when Angelus was trying to lay a trap for the Slayer. I mean, the local Slayer. This is dashed complicated. How could there be two Slayers, anyway?” He kept going when Research Lad tried to get a few thousand words of explanation in. “It could have even been successful, except that Drusilla was involved. She knew precisely when to interrupt the spellworks. She also apparently knew when to show up in Sunnydale to snatch the obelisk that contained Acathla. I really fail to understand how Acathla could have been left so that it would be this easy to unbury him and awaken him.”
Giles jumped in, “The Council was led to believe that Acathla would be buried where none could find him. And I am quite sure that at the time, a completely unknown continent counted as ‘where none could find him’. Unfortunately, we are currently in a series of apocalyptic seasons, and we will need to research every possible such lost object, to ensure that we are better-prepared for upcoming apocalypses.”
Terence instantly started making cramped little notes in a leather-bound notepad, while Roger looked even grumpier. Hamilton scowled, “And what makes you think we are facing a series of apocalypses? Our seers have sensed no such trends, and this does not appear to have a basis in our records.”
Giles stammered, “O-on the c-contrary, Hamilton. Council seers have sent Kendra here twice since I have taken up my position. And there is a very strong basis in Council records, starting with the Fourth Prophecy of Tilurius.” He quoted, “For the three stars shall move into alignment and remain there, and it shall be the end of days, and the apocalypse shall be brought forth as the stars point at our lives.”
Roger looked over at Terence, who timidly confessed, “Yes, that is certainly a viable translation, even if there are alternative forms, all of which are still comparatively ‘close’ in meaning.”
Giles spilled, “I was constricted in my duties by the inability of the Council to locate Miss Summers before she was Chosen, and then the problems that led to Merrick’s death, and then the continued parental intervention of the Slayer’s mother, which meant that Miss Summers was trapped as a high school student at a school directly over a Hellmouth. A Slayer living with a parent who has no understanding of the supernatural? It’s unheard of. Miss Summers was treated like an ordinary teenager, with expectations of curfews and good grades and appropriate behavior. It is ridiculous to have a Slayer who is expected to be home by nine or ten on every school night! And since Mrs. Summers refuses to believe in the evidence of her own eyes, and I couldn’t move the Slayer off the Hellmouth, I was forced to maintain my charade as a school librarian or else be arrested on suspicion of pedophilia.”
Nigel the trainer admitted, “We really have nothing in the curriculum to help a Watcher who cannot perform his duties in the standard mode. And we have very little to assist a Slayer who cannot be trained normally and cannot be kept in fighting trim and cannot be properly directed in her duties.”
Giles admitted, “I was able to create a covert system under which we were able to do training in the martial arts and some training in languages. It also provided an apparent clique of friends for Miss Summers which helped persuade her mother that she is not some sort of violent hooligan. I started an ‘Archaeology Club’ at the school. I was most fortunate that the school has possibly the finest teenaged mind in California, and she joined the club and ‘made friends’ with Miss Summers. In less than a year and a half, she has learned at least a dozen ancient languages, and frankly her Sumerian is already better than ninety percent of the graduates of the Watchers Academy. She found one of my restricted books, since she has some magical talent and can pass right through the light wards I could get away with putting on my research materials in a high school library. She successfully translated the Fourth Prophecy of Tilurius. She successfully worked out with another member of the club what it meant, and she is enough of a scientist and programmer that she was able to work out what astronomical features were involved, along with when it would happen. Unfortunately, that ‘when’ is right now. The relevant ‘stars’ are really our outer planets, which explains how they could ‘move’ into a syzygy. And that syzygy will continue to point at Earth every May and December for another eight years. This particular Slayer has successfully thwarted five consecutive apocalypses without dying, which as you know is unheard of.”
Terence was all librarian-ly and fussy, while Nigel refused to buy into the whole deal. Finally Roger admitted, “Yes, Rupert is quite correct. Even worse, the last time this particular alignment occurred was 65 million years ago, and it wiped out the dominant lifeforms on the entire planet. However, the Inner Council voted to keep this information in an ‘eyes only’ category, to avoid panic and over-reaction among the majority of Council members and supporters.”
Nigel gaped, “Five apocalypses? And she’s still alive? That’s…”
Terence jumped in, “No other Slayer in our records has ever thwarted more than two, and certainly not one every six months.”
Hamilton cringed, “I can believe it. I have never felt a Hellmouth this… ravenous before.”
Roger frowned at him. “Don’t you mean ‘active’ or perhaps ‘activated’?”
Hamilton slowly shook his head. “No, it is as if the Hellmouth is already active, and in some arcane sense, alive. It feels as if its power is somehow being suppressed, concealing its innate danger, while it strives to free itself.”
Eww. That was not of the good. Xendra just sat there and did his best not to react. Even if what he wanted to do was jump into the air and yell something insane, like maybe ‘great googly moogly!’
Instead, he sat there with his knees clenched together and his hands in his lap. And he complained, “And mother and father thought this would be an excellent vacation so I could reconsider my interest in joining the Council. After my first night in Sunnydale, I quite grasped why they dumped me on poor Uncle Rupert.”