Joss Whedon owns Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible's sing-along blog. I'm not using anything from those shows here, I just thought I'd mention them because they're cool. Oh, and I don't own Buffy.
"The w-what? Where d-did you hear that term?" Giles was obviously flustered by the confrontation with the rest of Scoobies, and his increased stuttering reflected that.
"It was in one of the Watcher journals you've been leaving around, Giles. I caught the first glimpse and then passed it on to Wills, who put the pieces together and filled everyone in." Xander glared at his erstwhile mentor, feeling betrayed and angry that one of the few adults he trusted had hidden something like this from them.
Giles straightened. "It's about bloody time you found it! I've been leaving those journals around for months! How hard is it to read a simple journal? I even gave you the ones written in English! Honestly!"
The younger crowd seemed non-pulsed by this sudden turn-around and outburst, but Joyce stood up and approached the Librarian.
"Rupert, if you went to the trouble of leaving the books around where the children could find them, why didn't you just tell them? Wouldn't that have saved some time, as well as frustration? I mean, it's obvious that you wanted them to know about this."
Giles gave her a wan smile and polished his glasses. "Th-the Watcher's Council has secrets that they try very hard to keep that way. Before being initiated into some of the, less savory, elements of the Council, they require th-that we take an oath of secrecy."
"So, you were going to let me get tortured because of a stupid promise?" Buffy was quite vocal in her rage.
Giles turned to her and let his shoulders slump as he replaced his glasses. "A magical oath. There are things I know that I cannot speak of. I-I'm not physically able to pass on the information in-in any deliberate sense unless I know the information is already know. Until Willow asked that question, and then Xander clarified you all knew, I was unable to so much as speak that word. I…do apologize for my outburst, but it was a bit of a relief to be able to speak of these things."
"So, this cruci-crap is for real? As in, modern day for real, rather than ancient history Watcher stuff? That's crazy!"
"Indeed it is, Faith. It is not used for every Slayer, for the simple fact that most Slayers do not live long enough for the Council to test them. The last time the cruciamentum was carried out was in the 1970's to an American Slayer named Nikki Woods. Every time a Slayer lasts long enough for it to be considered, a vocal minority of Watchers, all of whom have field experience, protest that it is antiquated and needlessly cruel, but the Council ignores us. I'm also fairly certain now that they use it as a means of getting rid of Slayers they consider to be unruly and beyond their control."
"Like me." Buffy's eyes made it clear that she was not asking a question, merely confirming something she suspected.
"Y-yes, Buffy, like you. For all that the Council does fight the demons to protect humanity, that does not make them saints. O-or even particularly nice. Were it possible, I would have left the Council, save that they would then replace me with someone who did not have your interests at heart."
Buffy let a small smile flit across her face at her Watcher's words, and was about to respond when Xander cut her off.
"Ok, so the Watcher's aren't nice people, but the real question is what can we do? I get the feeling that sending them a letter saying we did the curse-momentum, she passed with flying colors, thanks for asking will not exactly reassure them that everything is cool over here?"
Giles shook his head "The Council always sends at least one observer for the test, and they also provide the Vampire that you will have to face. I strongly suspect that in this case they will send a team over, with one of the Council heads in charge."
Buffy quirked an eyebrow "All that for little old me? Should I be flattered?"
"No. Not just for you. There are now two Slayers working together in this area. Since the Council granted Faith leave to stay here, they likely assume that the two of you are at the very least talking to each other. They will test both of you at the same time." Giles had a grim look as he explained.
"Ain't no thang, G. B and I can smoke 'em 2 on 2 even without our badass supernatural mojo. I got my girl's back, y'know?" Faith leaned back in her chair, using bravado to cover the unease this whole situation was giving her. Diana had never talked about anything like this, and she had yet to shake the helpless feeling that Kakistos had given her.
"I have yet to receive instructions for preparing for the test, but I find it most likely that I will be directed to acquire two houses to use. One of the structures is that the Slayer must fight alone."
Faith paled, though she tried to hide it well. Luckily for her, no-one noticed as they were all distracted by their own thoughts.
"You do have a plan, don't you Rupert? You aren't intending to let either Faith of my daughter go through with this insanity, are you?" Joyce was half ranting and half pleading as she addressed the Librarian again.
Giles took a deep breath "I…have an idea. I-I can't call it a plan yet, but now that you know about it, I can tell you what options we have available. It m-might not be easy, but there is something we can do to mitigate the amount of control that the Council will have. W-we must appear to co-operate with them, and be on model behavior when they arrive. There is one element that I will need that will require a sacrifice…" Giles trailed off as his eyes fell on Xander.
Xander looked scared for a moment, and then resolved. "I'll do it. I don't care what it takes, I'm in."
"I changed my mind. I can't do this"
"Shut up dweeb. It's too late to back out now."
"This-this is torture. This is inhuman! This is…"
"A three piece suit."
Xander slumped down, not yet ready to admit defeat, but powerless in the face of dress clothes. Cordelia was freely letting her amusement at this development show as Xander tried to avoid the fitting as though it were a coffin he was being measured for.
"Remind me again why I was the hapless victim here? Not, oh, I don't know, ANYONE ELSE?"
She smirked again at his anguished cry. Cordelia would never describe herself as vindictive (which was fine, because almost everyone else she knew would gladly do it in her place), but she was experiencing quite the moment of schadenfreude over her ex's suffering.
"Giles explained it. The Watcher's Council is primarily a boys club, so it would be far less suspicious to have a male assistant, leaving only you and Oz as choices. And while neither of you is a good fit for an ultra-conservative, proper, upper-crust brown-noser, it's you by default because they don't let werewolves play, and they will check for it. So stop whining, and try on this Zenga."
Xander let out a moan and finally took the suit with him to the change room. He cursed all the dark fates that led him to this moment, and left him with no avenue of escape. Removing his beloved and comfortable Hawaiian shirt, he struggled with the complicated set of Italian clothing. Stepping out, he complained, "This is very uncomfortable. And I look like and idiot."
Cordelia laughed at the sight of Xander in a suit. She couldn't say he was wearing it, but it was at least on. Rolling her eyes, she walked over and started to fix the, well, everything.
"You act like you've never worn one of these before."
Cordelia paused. "What? You're seventeen years old! Have you never gone to a wedding, or church, or a funeral? We live in Sunnydale!"
Xander snorted "You think my folks would shell out for, well, anything extra? I have a pair of black slacks and a collared white shirt. I've never even worn a tie before. And the only time I really cared was Jesse's funeral."
Cordelia kept her expression blank as she continued to fix what Xander was wearing. She knew that bringing up his dead best friend was painful, but right now she needed anything she could get to distract her from how close he was to her, and how it still made her feel. She cursed her parents once again, and Xander as well for upholding his word of honor to stay broken up with her in return for her college fund. She finished with his tie and then stepped back, and failed to keep a leer off her face.
"If I'd known that you'd clean up this nicely, I would have made them shell out more for the breakup, dweeb."
Xander loosened his collar and took a breath. He had to admit that now he was wearing it correctly, the suit was more comfortable, though still a far shout from his beloved jeans and t-shirt. He also tried not to think about how being that close to Cordelia had affected him. He sighed, disliking how the suit clung to him, and turned to the mirror.
"Huh. I have to admit, this does look kindof dapper. But it's still not really me."
Cordelia smiled an evil smile "Don't worry, geekboy. We're not done with you yet."
Xander shivered at her statement "Oh no. What else are you going to do to me?"
"Willow told me to remind you of the story of Samson…"
Xander paled and grasped his head.
Joyce, with some help from Willow and Oz, and a promise from Buffy to stay out of the kitchen, was just taking dinner out of the oven when Cordelia breezed in. Giles had set the table, and Faith was chatting with Buffy in the living room, but everyone nearby looked up to see the smug grin on the Sunnydale socialite's face.
"This took waaaay longer than needed, thanks to his whining, but it is complete! I give you my masterpiece, the apprentice Watcher, Alexander Harris!"
There was a long pause, and you could almost hear the crickets chirping in the background. Cordelia turned and shot a nasty glare out the door "Mister, if you don't hustle your well-dressed buns in here right now, I am going to announce you again, and this time I'll use your middle name!"
Willow gasped at the dire threat, and Xander shuffled into the house. His Italian suit was tailored to his body, his hair cut short and professional, his shoes shined to a beautiful gloss, and he looked miserable.
A wolf-whistle sounded from the living room, and all eyes turned to see Faith…staring at Buffy with a mildly shocked and amused look on her face. Buffy, on the other hand, was doing an impressive imitation of a tomato with her complexion.
Joyce smiled at her daughter's embarrassment, but decided to give her an out. "Dinner's ready!"
AN: does anyone actually know how to spell cruciamentum? I've yet to find a definitive source, and the ones I have seen are occasionally contradictory.
Also, please review. It makes me feel complete. Like that last piece of a jigsaw.