The next morning:
A small group of people were in the school library of Sunnydale High.
Rupert Giles looked around at those who had joined him for their free period, warily eyeing them all. What got his attention first was the newcomer to his place of work.
A few minutes ago, he had surreptitiously checked his Oxford English dictionary for the exact definition of ‘sashay’ and he had found it precisely defined Cordelia Chase’s entrance into the library, as that girl had walked into there knowing everyone’s attention would be on her. She had headed for the nearest chair, sank into it as if it were a throne, and began proclaiming the latest school gossip.
As Giles rubbed his aching knuckles, he had watched the others listening to how an unknown individual named Larry, who was evidently a football player, which explained why Giles had never met him in the library, was now out for the season with a broken leg he’d gotten last night and wouldn’t talk about, but in his hospital room, when the nurse had turned the television set on to the Cartoon Channel, that athlete had screamed and dived under his covers, for some mysterious reason.
Or that some girl, given the peculiar American name of Harmony, was now walking around the school, carrying a Bible and blessing people, all while wearing a plain grey dress that reached to the floor and had a neckline that started at her eyebrows.
This….Cordelia had finally finished talking and she was now filing her nails and smirking while listening to Buffy profusely and abjectly apologizing to a grim-faced Willow ticking off from a very long list every individual insult, affront, slur, and slight she‘d received from the blonde last night.
Giles suddenly stopped woolgathering and listened with alarm to the edge now in Buffy’s voice as she decided she’d had enough. The man started to open his mouth, until another voice spoke first.
“Hey, Rosenberg,” calmly said Cordelia, lifting up her hand and intently examining the nail she’d been working on. “About last night, there’s something I’ve been wondering about.”
Still glaring at Buffy, Willow said brusquely, “What, Cordy?”
“How’d you talk?”
That got everyone’s attention, with the other two girls now looking at the brunette in puzzlement. Willow asked blankly, “What do you mean, how did I talk?”
Cordelia sighed, drawling it out. “Duuuuuuuuhhhhh. I made that sound by using my diaphragm to push air through my lungs up my throat, and vibrated my vocal cords around the air flow, among other things. However, you were a ghost last night. No breathing, and all of you was intangible anyway, which meant there was no way for you to make any sound. So….how’d you talk?”
Willow and Buffy’s faces went blank, and then they both looked at each other and frowned in thought.
Over the next few moments of silence, Giles gratefully accepted the lack of tension between his Slayer and her friend and the diversion of possible conflict among them, until a worm of suspicion suddenly entered his brain. It was helped along by Cordelia going back to filing her nails, with her left side of her face presenting a calm exterior to the others and the right side of her face that was shown to Giles suddenly giving him a brazen wink.
Rupert Giles uneasily leaned back in his chair and thought hard about how a young woman who ruled a dozen-member cheerleading squad with a rod of iron would have absolutely no problems dealing with the group dynamics of a much smaller team. His attention was brought back to the most-impressive newcomer as a quick look of concern swept over her face and Cordelia jerked her chin for him to look over at where she was pointing.
A moment later, Giles stood up, took a book off his desk, and carried it over to one of the shelves. As he checked the spine of the book, and then leaned down to place it in its correct location, the Englishman was right behind Xander Harris.
Earlier, that boy had slouched into the library and he had reluctantly answered their questions about his Halloween experiences, including the shocking news of how Spike and Drusilla had met their ends. He had firmly refused to go into more detail, including exactly what it felt like to be a motor vehicle, and if Angel had found him. A very terse answer of “Yes, and then I got home,” was given for the last question, along with Xander absently scrubbing hard his face with his palm, and lapsing into a sulky silence that had lasted for the rest of his stay in the library.
At least, until Cordelia had directed an alarmed Giles’ attention to where he could see that Xander had been looking blankly into the distance and silently mouthing words. Now, the librarian was close enough to listen to whatever the teenager was saying.
Later, Giles could never remember exactly how he had gotten back to his desk and found himself polishing his glasses at a record-setting pace. He was unnerved enough to stop wondering about Ethan Rayne. After Giles had smashed the statue, he had left the shop and the unconscious man to go check on Buffy and the others. After making sure they were all right and the Halloween costumes no longer affected their wearers, Giles had returned to the shop, only to find Ethan was….gone.
*Where the devil is that bastard?*
While driving out of town, Ethan congratulated himself through his fog of pain that he’d gotten a rental car with automatic transmission. With one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand holding an icebag against the right side of his badly battered face, there would have been no possible way to drive a car with a stick shift.
That seemed to be the only fortunate thing to have occurred over the last twenty-four hours. He’d had to leave behind all his costumes and other stock when he’d come to and dragged his beaten body to his rental car, taking with him only his wallet, a duffel bag containing some clothing and a shaving kit that was already in the car, and a few magical trinkets that were too valuable to be left behind. He’d sweated blood (literally, there hadn’t been time to bandage himself) while delaying the few minutes needed to gather up the items of power, desperately hoping that Rupert Giles wouldn’t show up again for a more prolonged discussion.
Ethan lowered the icebag and glanced in the rear-view mirror. He would have winced at what was revealed, if his face wasn’t already hurting too much. Despite stopping at one of those ubiquitous convenience stores in this country for quick repairs from a medical kit and several hastily swallowed pain pills, both sold to him by an indifferent clerk who had allowed the Englishman to patch himself up in the store’s lavatory, his face still resembled a tomato run over by an overloaded lorry.
*Bloody hell, I forgot how hard Ripper could hit.*
The magician momentarily brooded over revenge, wondering if there was currently any way he could shove a spiky stick up his former friend’s arse. Ethan reluctantly realized that in his present condition, both physically and financially, there was no chance of this. Even half a day of dozing in the car after patching himself up just regained enough energy for him to operate his vehicle without getting into any serious accidents. He sighed and concentrated on driving, glad to be heading far, far away from a now-detested town and towards any other place that offered more opportunities for a proponent of anarchy.
*Well, at least the whole blasted fiasco’s all over and done with.*
As the Englishman’s car passed by the Sunnydale town limits sign, a last tiny flicker of the Halloween Chaos magic reached out, and struck.
A totally bewildered Ethan Rayne suddenly found himself uttering, in a perfect American accent, the complaining declaration: “And I’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!”
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All rights to Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo and Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters mentioned here belong to their proper owners.
Author’s Notes: Oh, come on! You knew I was going to deliver the last line sometime! I even gave you a hint earlier in the story.
Cordelia’s question to Willow was due to something that’s been bugging me for years, about ghosts and intangible people, not just in the Buffyverse (ghost-Willow and the First Evil), but also in other media: Casper, Jacob Marley, Shadowcat, Phantom Girl, etc. How the hell do they talk? I just wish that when they show somebody who can walk through walls, they also make this person a master of charades.
Finally, to anybody who thinks I took an attribute of Xander-van from Stephen King’s novel about another sentient (and much nastier) motor vehicle: Wrong. I actually came up with it when I contemplated the absurdity of FOUR teenage kids (their car insurance must have been through the roof!) driving around the entire country without putting the slightest ding on one of the bumpers. The cartoon van ALWAYS looked in perfect shape. Which means….magic. Or a bunch of meticulous animators whose dedication carried over in their work and into a self-repairing Xander-van.
Thanks for all the reviews!