This little fic was inspired by a little marathon of Batman: The Animated Series. The one, way back when, with Mark Hamil voicing the Joker. In there, there was an episode titled ‘The Gray Ghost’ in which Batman is dealing with a criminal who is pulling off crimes using a gimmick in a show he watched as a kid. You can suppose that Batman’s behavior is partly shaped by that show, in-universe.
Bonus points: The Gray Ghost was voiced by Adam West.
For the purposes of this fic, assume Batman doesn’t exist. Instead of Batman, The Gray Ghost was made by Bob Kane, and Adam West picked it up and made it a (Very campy) TV series back in the day. Many of the aspects are the same, and if you manage to catch the episode I’m referring to, you should be able to make the adjustment pretty easy.
Anyway, it got wheels churning in my head. And yes, I know, it’s been a long time since I updated Metal Gear Sunnydale. The next part of that is nearly finished, so hold on a while longer. Like, a month. Or so. *shakes head* Nevermind, it'll get out when it's done.
I own nothing of DC comics, Batman, the very minor crossover with Gargoyles, or anything else in there. Just sit back and enjoy.
It didn’t take much to change a life.
In Xander’s case, a cheap plastic whip, his grandpa’s old fedora, a tattered grey trenchcoat and a pair of goggles from Ethan’s that night turned him, for a few hours, into a cheesy 1930's superhero, immortalized in a cheesy 1960's TV series. While the memories of leaping from rooftop to rooftop over Sunnydale had been fun in retrospect, he still wasn’t happy with all the carnage he’d seen that night.
The Gray Ghost. He laughed to himself. It had been an extremely campy show, fun to watch in its own way, but actually becoming the character for a night was pretty frightening in retrospect. The man thought nothing of taking liberties with his borrowed body into a Halloween inspired street brawl. Unfortunately, unlike the old show, his enemies didn’t fall over with a ‘Pow!’ ‘Thwack!’‘Clonk!’ sound effect or colorful pop-up.
Just when Xander had been about to be skewered by Larry the pirate and his not-quite merry men (whose choice of costumes definitely did not improve intelligence) the spell had ended, and Xander found himself standing on a street with a few very confused and bruised football players. He made his way home that evening, just barely finding his bed and sleeping like a rock before he’d ended up collapsing on the floor from exhaustion.
Thus a very sore Xander Harris walked into the library the next morning, wincing at the sunlight pouring in the windows as his exhausted eyes protested. Seeing Giles at the table, pouring over books. The older man was pale, his fingers shaking with exhaustion.
“Hey Giles. Sorry I’m late, alarm didn’t go off.” He said, trying to cheer things up for the day. His small smile faded, however, when Giles didn’t respond. Gently he stepped up behind the older man and shook his shoulder. Giles jumped and turned, rubbing his eyes as he saw who it was. “Oh, Xander. What are you doing here?”
“It’s ten o’clock, G-man. You okay? You look like you’ve been up all night.”
“Ah. I have, I’m afraid. You got caught up in the commotion last night?” At Xander’s nod, he went on. “A chaos mage cast spells on the costumes sold from his store, most made to provide the maximum amount of carnage overnight. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to him in time to prevent a lot of casualties. He teleported away after I broke the spell. I want to find that bastard and introduce him to his small intestine.”
Xander felt a sudden chill. “Who?”
Grief and worry in his eyes, Giles spoke. “Buffy and Willow both didn’t come home last night. They found Willow on the side of the road this morning. She was apparently injured by one of the children Ethan’s spell afflicted. As for Buffy, there’s been no sign.”
“She’s okay.” A voice came from the shadows. Angel stepped out slowly, keeping away from the sunlight. “Spike drained her nearly dry before the spell ended. I managed to get him off her and get her to the hospital, but it was very close. Another ten seconds and that would have been it.”
Giles slowly sat in one of the chairs. “My word.”
Xander clenched his fists. “Alright. To the hospital we go. Screw school today, my friends are more important.”
The vampire and the watcher nodded in agreement.
Xander gently squeezed Willow’s hand. The steady beeping of the heart monitor piercing the otherwise silent room. “She’ll be alright.” The intern, Ben, was saying. “She’s just asleep at the moment. Considering the deep lacerations to her leg, though, she’ll need physiotherapy once she’s all healed up.” He considered his words carefully. “She’s very, very lucky. If the bites had been any deeper, she’d have likely suffered nerve damage. As it is, she’ll probably always have a limp.”
Giles nodded. “Thank you. Her parents should be arriving in the next few days, they have to come back from a conference in Metropolis.”
Ben nodded. “I’m sure she’ll be glad to have an uncle and cousin like you two.”
Xander grinned and nodded, his tone slightly nervous. “Yeah. Take care of my cousin, would you?”
“Mom, I’m fine, really. You don’t need to hover over me every second.” Buffy said, a smile on her face.
Joyce sighed, gently hugging her daughter in her hospital bed. “I know, but I still worry. We’ll get you home as soon as you’re able. I know you hate hospitals.”
Buffy smiled, returning the hug. “Thanks mom.”
A nurse showed up at that point, smiling apologetically to Joyce. “Sorry, miss. Visiting hours are over. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
Joyce nodded slowly, kissing Buffy’s forehead. “Get better soon, dear.”
Buffy gently squeezed her mother’s hand. “Thanks mom. I will.”
Striding down the hall, she came to where Xander and Giles were leaving Willow’s room. As they saw her, the pair rose to their feet and came to her. Xander gently hugged her while Giles coughed a bit and looked embarrassed.
As Joyce pulled away from Xander, she spoke softly. “How’s Willow? Do the police have any idea who did this?”
Giles shook his head. “She’s in rough shape, I’m afraid. Nobody tended to her for hours. If she’d been lying just a little differently...” He took a deep breath and sighed. “As for the police, I’m afraid not. Considering the havoc that occurred last night, they have their hands quite full at the moment.”
Joyce winced at the reminder, looking to Xander. “I’m sorry about your friend.”
Xander nodded slowly, his voice thick. “It’s alright. It couldn’t be helped.”
She shook her head. “No, it isn’t alright. A lot of people got hurt last night, and nobody seems to be doing anything. My daughter is lying in that bed, and the doctors tell me that if she’d lost just a bit more blood she wouldn’t be coming home. And the neck wound...what kind of sickos do this to a young girl? To my daughter!? Some kind of insane cult!?”
The two men winced as her voice rose. Embarrassed, Joyce spoke more lowly. “If the police don’t catch the people who did this, and you just happen to stumble over them...well I won’t ask any questions.”
Xander nodded. Giles smiled a little, taking her hand. “Miss Summers. I assure you, we will do everything in our power to rectify the situation. Come, let’s take you home.”
“Why do they fear the Slayer?”
The question came out of the blue to Giles, as he flipped through pages in the books, looking up tracking spells. “Sorry, Xander? I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.”
“Vampires, demons. Why do they fear the Slayer? A smart vampire would look up where a killer of their kind is and stay away. I know there’s vampire hunters elsewhere, but they’re not as feared as Slayers are. Why?” The young man spoke as he carefully whittled a stake.
Thinking about it for a moment, Giles replied. “The Slayer is typically a young girl. There’s always a Slayer, and they could be anywhere. The Council often shipped them around to the most troublesome spots. They arranged for Joyce’s job opportunity here and placed me here ahead of time, if you’ll recall. A vampire hunter, on the other hand, will often not look easy, but if they’re killed, that’s it.”
Xander nodded slowly. “That might be part of it. But think about what she represents. She’s a reminder that for everything they’ve got, they’re not the top of the food chain. They use the Slayer to scare their fledglings, to keep their young in line. Buffy’s the vampire boogeyman, just with the plus of being real.”
Giles nodded, looking at the young man seriously. “What are you getting at, Xander?”
“Fear, Giles. She is a symbol of fear. Spike’s respected because he went and faced that fear.” A thought crossed Xander’s mind. “So maybe we need another symbol of fear.”
Giles rose an eyebrow at that “What are you suggesting?”
“I’m not sure.” Xander admitted. “The guy I ended up as, he ran off to help deal with the chaos on the streets. If he hadn’t, maybe Willow wouldn’t be hurt right now. Am I wrong for feeling that?”
Giles shook his head. “Of course not. But I fail to see what we can do. Spike and Drusilla are on the loose, Willow is injured, and while Angel might possibly be able to stand in for Buffy until she recovers, he is nowhere near as effective right now.”
“I have an idea.” Xander spoke. “Why don’t I help? My costume, the Gray Ghost, was originally meant to strike fear in criminals. Granted, he was a comic book character, but he had some of the skills we need.”
Giles shook his head. “You have the knowledge, not the skills. Your mind might know how to do something, but your body will not. At best, it’ll give you a shortcut in training.” He tapped his chin, considering. “Vampires won’t be afraid of a man in a grey suit, even if they remember the original comics. That bloody series from later on wouldn’t help matters, either. If you run around in that, they’ll see you as another hunter rather than a symbol. A hunter with serious mental issues, at that.” He paused for a moment. “The idea has some merit, though. What we need is something more primal. Something even demons fear, something you can be made to resemble...”
A frown slowly crossed the older man’s face. Xander rose an eyebrow. “What, Giles?”
The older man shook his head. “There’s some things demons fear, but usually not something easy to get a hold of. Not all fear holy icons and relics, not all fear fire, and most laugh at ordinary humans. If you’re going to go through with this idea of yours, we’ll need to tap into something most of them do fear.”
Giles shook his head once more. “In the meantime, we’ll have to get you in shape. We’ll start training tomorrow. If you’re going to go through with this insane idea, it’d be best to have you as prepared as possible.”
Xander nodded as he rose to his feet. “And I’m going to do something my dad told me never to do. Talk to the police.”
Giles looked up at him. “Are you sure that’s wise?”
Xander shook his head. “Giles, if the police had been out if force on Halloween, Willow might still be uninjured and Buffy not so weak. When the Gray Ghost was jumping around on rooftops, I saw only one cop car out and about. The rest were all hanging near Dunkin’ Donuts. I need to know why.” He smiled wryly. “Don’t worry, Giles. The Ghost knew how to get around quietly.”
Sergeant James Gordon had been on the Sunnydale Police Department’s night shift for ten years. It was a record survival time, especially for someone working without a partner. He’d learned, very quickly, that they’d sent him out there to die. A deal with a local gunsmith kept him well-supplied with buckshot, however, and it kept his sawed-off shotgun out of the eye of the other cops on the force.
He was coming to the end of a long shift, looking forward to going home at the end of his day. He’d hoped to get his paperwork done quickly, avoid Stein, and cheat death for another night. When his desk light went out and a quiet click came from behind him, with the feel of cold metal on the back of his neck, he was sure his time had run out.
“Don’t turn around.” Spoke a quiet, whispering voice. “Your car was the only one out Halloween night. Why?”
Swallowing his fear, Jim Gordon quietly spoke back. “Orders from the Mayor’s office. Most of the force is under his thumb. He tells us to stay in on certain nights, only respond to certain calls. I do what I can, and for it I’ve been sent out alone for years. They want an accident to happen to me.”
A moment passed, and then another. “What would it take to change things?”
Considering quickly, Gordon replied. “The local judges are in his pockets. If not by money it’s threats to their families. If he can be extradited out of Sunnydale, then he won’t have any leverage. Can’t be anything local, though. He’s got too much power in the area for anyone to risk facing him. A few others here tried. They disappeared.”
“You want to take back the night, Sergeant?”
He nodded. “Of course. I want to make it safe for my family.”
“Then wait for my sign.” The metal disappeared from his neck, and Gordon let out a slow sigh. “You’re just one man?”
“Now we’re two.”
Gordon blinked. “We?” He turned and saw the open window, the drapes fluttering in the wind. Moving to the window quickly, he leaned out and looked down. Then up, to see a man in a gray coat and hat, climbing up the fire escape. “Hey!”
Turning back, Gordon scrambled up the stairs to the roof, pulling his gun as he saw the man in the gray coat reach the edge of the roof. “Freeze!” Gordon yelled. The man turned, tipped his gray hat, and dove off the roof. Gordon ran over to see him swing from the next building’s fire escape with a rope. Landing on the ground was a bit rough for the man, however. He tumbled and rolled as he broke the momentum of his swing. Once he climbed to his feet he ran into the alley, leaving Gordon to curse to himself.
Andrew Wells stared into the mirror. He couldn’t keep his lips from moving. Over and over again, the phrase fell silently from his lips.
He and Tucker went out on Halloween. Tucker hadn’t been the best brother on the planet, but it had always been the pair of them. Tucker had been mom’s favorite. Tucker kidnapped Cindy Jordon’s frog when they were eight and dissected while it was still alive. Tucker summoned a hellhound and kept it fed on cattle brains, leaving Andrew to clean up the mess.
He always cleaned up the mess. He never made them, but he was always stuck cleaning them. If he didn’t, he’d get blamed for making them.
Then Halloween came. He took some hair gel from Tucker, purchased from Ethan’s, and reserved a vampyre costume from Partytown. By the time he got there, though, Partytown had ‘misplaced’ his order. He later saw Tucker wearing that costume. And since Tucker took his costume, he figured he’d take Tucker’s. He took some of his brother’s clothes.
And then Andrew became Tucker. Tucker tracked down Tucker. Tucker knifed Tucker for being another Tucker. Tucker became Andrew. But Andrew didn’t kill Tucker. Tucker killed Tucker. Since he killed Tucker, he couldn’t be Andrew. He could only be Tucker. But he was Andrew.
A low laugh came out, barely audible, but it quieted the cacophony in his mind. He wasn’t Andrew. Andrew wouldn’t kill his brother. Andrew was too soft to kill. Andrew was too soft to challenge someone else. Andrew wasn’t Tucker. Tucker could challenge. Tucker thought nothing of killing. Tucker cared for nothing but himself. Which is why he couldn’t abide another Tucker. But he couldn’t be Tucker, because he remembered being Andrew. But he also remembered being Tucker.
A joke. Jokejokejokejoke. He was a joke. He couldn’t be one or the other, because one or the other wouldn’t do what the other did. But he did both. But it was impossible to be both. Two couldn’t become one and remain unchanged. Spock was wrong. Wrongwrongwrong. It was all wrong. He had to show the world how wrong it was.
“Why so serious? Why so serious? Why so serious?” The phrase fell from his lips. A favorite of Tucker’s. Tucker’s joke. He was never serious. Andrew was serious, but he wasn’t Andrew. He wasn’t Tucker either. He was a joke. But jokes are supposed to be funny. Jokes make you smile. He couldn’t smile. Maybe he just had to fix a smile.
“Come on.” He said to the mirror. “Smile! Smile! Why so serious?”
He picked up the razor.
Xander threw the towel down as he wiped off his sweat. The Gray Ghost may have been campy, but even what he did on the show kept the man in shape. Xander was nowhere near that level, though he had to admit his running speed was up there. Putting away the weight equipment he’d ‘borrowed’ from the school gym, he started on the exercise regimen he put together from his inherited memories. If he was going to be filling in as a real-life comic book character, he had to limber up and get to be quite agile. He nearly jerked his arm out of its socket as he swung away from the police station.
For an old guy, Gordon was pretty quick.
He turned on his radio as he stepped into the shower, listening with one ear as he cleaned up from his exertions.
“In other news, sightings in Metropolis of the mysterious ‘Blur’ has risen to over a dozen in the last week. This incident occurred when a train nearly derailed when the braking system malfunctioned. Three people were injured in the accident, but they were minor. Lexcorp has stated that they will be launching a full investigation into the state of its trains, and more details will be commented upon, as they come in. In more local events, the owner of a Sunnydale pawn shop was found dead early this morning. Police suspect it was the work of a PCP gang, and are encouraging anyone with any information to come forward. Police so far have refused to release many details of the case, and have stated the investigation is ongoing.”
Finishing his shower and turning the radio off, Xander quickly dressed. He winced as he heard a smash from downstairs, a sign his parents had awakened and probably tripped over last night’s bottle of booze. He set out toward Giles’ place, it being a Saturday, they were going to visit Buffy and Willow, start up on training, education, and everything else he’d need to keep going out in the world.
As he passed by one of the many churches of Sunnydale, a shadow caught his attention in the morning sun. Blinking, he looked at its shape, as if it was flipping a switch inside his head. Looking up, he saw a form crouched above the church’s doors. A small stone gargoyle, wings spread and arms out, glaring toward him like a territorial beast.
Looking back at the shadow, an idea slowly formed in his head. It was faint at first, but like an avalanche, it quickly grew with every passing moment. He found himself running toward Giles’ place, the strength of the growing image in his mind pushing him relentlessly. It was only when he arrived did he stop, his hand just above the door. He didn’t want to act like the hounds of hell were on his heels.
Though in Sunnydale, that was a possibility.
Finally, he calmly knocked. A few moments later, the door opened, and Giles frowned a little. “Xander. You’re here early. Is something wrong?”
He shook his head quickly. “No, not at all. I was on my way here and I caught an idea. Do you have a piece of paper and a pen?”
Blinking in confusion, Giles nodded. Going to his study and retrieving those items, he handed them to Xander, who sat at Giles’ table and quickly began sketching. “Xander, what is this all about?”
“I’ll show you in a sec, G-man. I’ve got an idea of the image we might want to use. Now I’m no Michelangelo, I’m missing a shell and green skin for one thing, but.....” He turned the outline over to Giles, his brown eyes dancing with excitement. “Think it can work?”
Xander was right, he would never be an artist, at least with paper and ink. But while the sketch was rough, the idea was there. A dark figure, two points emerging from the head, the rest of the form nearly shapeless with his cloak wrapped around him. Giles looked at the younger man, a smile slowly spreading over his face. “Where did you get this idea, Xander?”
“A church, Giles. I saw the shadow of a gargoyle on the ground, it looked a lot like that. I remember reading about them during one of the early research parties, didn’t they protect places and scare demons? Isn’t that one of the reasons they’re put up on so many buildings?”
Giles nodded. “It will take some work, some changes to the basic idea. But it can be done. The last of those known disappeared in the late tenth century, but they had been protectors of places for almost as long as Slayers have existed. They’ve passed down stories of gargoyles for many, many generations. There’s a reason artists have carved gargoyles onto churches and castles, to help frighten evil beings away. Real gargoyles were active in the night, and they despised demons.”
A slow grin spreading over his face, Xander nodded. “And until the reputation spreads a bit, I’ll be tapping into that imagery.” Tracing his finger over the drawing, a speculative gleam came into his eye. “Of course, we’ll have to make it. It won’t be all that good to start with, but if we can get our hands on some cash and a good tailor who can keep his mouth shut...”
Giles’ grin matched Xander’s. “Of course some things can be arranged. A basic outfit wouldn’t be too difficult, but to get maximum effect, we’d need money and equipment. Something Angel might be able to help us with?”
Xander nodded. “And didn’t Xanatos Corp come out with those high-stress mono-filament wires? Could be useful for some things. It’ll cost a lot, though.”
“Quite. Still, if it makes things safer out there for Buffy...”
Xander nodded, his grin turning dark. “It’ll be worth it. I’ll want to try and keep this under wraps though, Giles. This persona, if we get it to work...it’ll be public, attention-getting, if only after the fact. If people start targeting me because of it, they might end up going through Buffy and Willow and Cordy. Would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?”
Giles considered it for a few moments, and nodded. “Very well. This stays between the two of us, unless it becomes truly necessary. I’ll help however I can.”
“Good enough. Let’s get started on the training, shall we?”