Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Ray Bradbury characters, creations, and quotes belong to their original owners.
As Spike the vampire stood in the dark graveyard by the crypt he shared with his insane lover, this demon again glumly acknowledged that his usual habit of legging it as fast as he could away from any peril he couldn’t give a good bashing just wasn’t going to work this time. Besides, Dru actually seemed to be enjoying it all, judging from the way her delighted face was transfixed in her upwards gaze. When Spike also looked up, he had to admit it was bloody impressive.
Even though it shouldn’t have been able to exist at all during this Halloween night.
Towering over the entire town of Sunnydale, a massive tree which had to be impossibly a mile or more high was manifesting itself. This maple or oak or other deciduous tree gave the impression of consisting of an intangible substance, as it was transparent enough to easily look past the trunk, branches, and remaining leaves into the clouds of the night sky beyond. However, the tree also appeared to be affected by some sort of unfelt gale, causing its mostly-bare branches to flail about in the air and then come down to brush against the ground. What was dangling from the branches of the tree was another of tonight’s impossibilities, since hundreds of brightly glowing orange Halloween pumpkins, each insubstantial vegetable being the size of a car and lit up from the inside, were harmlessly sweeping through the people, homes, and buildings of Sunnydale.
Yet, Spike dejectedly noted every now and then, the suspended pumpkins in their inexorable course touched one of the panicked individuals running around the streets, sidewalks, and alleys of the California city. After this, the illuminated gourds with diverse expressions carved onto their faces passed on by, and that selected unfortunate had completely vanished from sight. It’d even happened in the graveyard a few minutes before. About a hundred feet away, Spike had watched two sprinting vampires trying to outrun the gleefully grinning pumpkin being swung along after them by one of the tree’s lashing branches. The other pair of blood-drinking demons had gotten overtaken by this soddin’ squash, and as quick as a wink, those poor blokes were erased from existence. There weren’t even the normal handfuls of dust left over when one of his fellow fanged monsters had their undead bodies destroyed by the bane of his unlife, that blasted Slayer.
This recent incidence had only added to Spike’s abrupt fatalism. If there’d looked like the slightest chance of him and Dru successfully escaping the same fate, either by getting past the Sunnydale city limits or hiding somewhere, the vampire would’ve instantly tried for it, dragging his totally-bonkers lover after if necessary. Except, there really didn’t seem to be any point, so he might as well wait--
A slender form unexpectedly spun on light feet, and she flung her arms around Spike’s chest. The undead Englishman looked down with complete surprise, directly into the blissful face of Drusilla hugging him, who then joyously recited:
“It’s big, it’s broad…
It’s broad, it’s bright…
It fills the sky of All Hallows’ Night…
The strangest sight you’ve ever seen.
The Monster Tree on Halloween.
The leaves have burned to gold and red
The grass is brown, the old year dead,
But hang the harvest high, Oh see!
The candle constellations on the Halloween Tree!
The stars they turn, the candles burn
And the mouse-leaves scurry on the cold wind borne,
And a mob of smiles shine down on thee
From the gourds hung high on the Halloween Tree.
The smile of the Witch, and the smile of the Cat,
The smile of the Beast, the smile of the Bat,
The smile of the Reaper taking his fee
All cut and glimmer on the Halloween Tree…
Before a bewildered Spike could otherwise response to this entirely unanticipated poem, Drusilla spoke again, this time in a commanding tone, “Give us a kiss, William, to show how much you worship me.”
Blinking downwards into the beautiful face of the only unrelated woman, living or dead, he’d truly adored, Spike met the intent gaze of Dru, who at this exact moment appeared to be more rational than she’d ever been since they’d met a century earlier. A great calm now descended upon the vampire while he smiled tenderly at the other demon in his arms, and Spike lowered his head to press his cold lips upon those of his love.
Interlocked together in a final embrace, both creatures of the night simultaneously closed their eyes as the kiss continued, with neither reacting to the oncoming radiance seen through their shut eyelids. When the orange light gathered them up, Spike and Drusilla went as one into the undiscovered country.
Inside the Sunnydale High library, there was complete silence, just as there had been ever since Xander finished talking about his fantastic experiences tonight. The various members of the Scooby Gang were scattered throughout the room. Angel and Buffy were sitting together on one side of the main library table, each holding the other’s hands. The Irishman was still maintaining the amazed look he’d carried on his ruddy face ever since entering the room, with his soft breathing easily heard in the quiet of the library.
On the other side of the table in his chair, Xander was leaning forward to bury his face in his hands and arms propped up by the elbows upon the tabletop. Willow was seated next to him, worriedly stroking small circles on his back covered solely by a t-shirt. On the left side of the teenage boy, Cordelia tried to look as haughty as ever, but the brunette girl occasionally shot a thoughtful glance over Xander’s head at where Willow was trying to comfort her yellow-crayon friend.
For the last remaining person there, Rupert Giles was behind his desk, with this Englishman dazedly rubbing at his upper arm. Even though that limb was covered by the Watcher’s usual tweed suit, Giles was still conscious of the lack of what had been etched into the skin there for the last decade or so, the demonic mark of Eyghon.
Earlier, he’d been in his Sunnydale apartment, savoring a rare night off by re-reading Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.
Until his normal line of work had abruptly presented itself in the guise of a wraithlike, enormous pumpkin casually penetrating the apartment wall, which had then enveloped his entire body in an orange glow. For an endless moment, Giles was wracked with incredible agony, until the pain had speedily ended, along with the equally quick disappearance of the eerie pumpkin once more going through the wall. It’d taken him a deliberate check of himself to confirm he also no longer had his mystical tattoo symbolizing the possession by the vile demon this man in his younger days had helped to summon.
Staggering out from his residence, Giles had spent a while gawking up in awe at the unbelievable tree, which clearly had to be the cause of everything tonight. Only the continuous ringing of his telephone coming through the open front door finally captured the Watcher’s attention, and he’d reluctantly backed up, his eyes still held by the wondrous sight. When he at last took the call, there was the necessity of deciphering Willow’s continuous babble until Cordelia holding the phone had sharply interjected a possible explanation, involving the name of someone Giles had never expected to meet again. Five minutes later, his car skidded to a halt before Ethan’s costume shop, just in time for the librarian to see another ghostly pumpkin the size of the building itself lazily passing through the structure. Immediately after this, the phantom vegetable popped out of existence like a soap bubble.
Giles warily entered the costume shop, but he failed to find any signs of his former friend in the whole place. The only evidence of any likely strangeness there was a small heap of shattered stone fragments on the register counter. Unable to think of anything else to do, Giles used the store phone to call Buffy’s house. Much to his relief, he was answered by his Slayer back to normal again. It was quickly agreed they’d all meet at the library. Hopefully, Xander would be there, or the other Scoobies could discuss where to look for him, given he’d been away from the others when they were escorting the younger trick-or-treaters and everyone changed into their costumes.
Regarding this… In the library, Giles craned his head to stare at what was lying discarded on the floor at the side of the main library table. There, a cloth tube created from a roll of brown fabric wrapped horizontally and pinned together sprawled limply on the linoleum. Numerous attached dead branches scavenged from neighborhood trees poked outwards from the material, with each of the crooked sticks in turn having a dangling toy pumpkin tied with string to these twigs. Giles closed his eyes in sheer disbelief. It was true those same items had come from Ethan’s shop, which meant they’d been imbued with Chaos magic. However, the mere idea of such a crude costume changing into such an extraordinary object from what he’d been assured was a children’s book--
At the library entrance, a throat was politely cleared.
Giles hastily opened his eyes in time to see a total stranger now striding into the room. The Watcher had only a moment to note this unknown man was dressed in a formal black business suit over a tall, bone-thin body and who also possessed a gaunt face with a piercing gaze, right before someone furiously yelled, “Leave my friends alone! You got a beef with me, I’ll go quietly, but you don’t hurt them!
Everyone’s shocked face turned to where Xander had leapt up from his chair, to then hustle around the table before stopping in front of the also halted stranger. Standing there in his t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, the teenager had his fists clenched, with a terrified but resolute expression on his own features while the pair confronted each other. The entire room was still, until the bemused stranger lifted up the patch of bare skin where his left eyebrow should’ve been on his completely hairless skull, before dryly commenting, “Young man, that’s a truly courageous offer, but it isn’t really necessary. I’m simply here to check on what happened to my tree during this All Hallows’ night. Nothing more will be needed from anyone here, so please calm yourself.”
“What?” goggled Xander, gaping at the faintly-smiling stranger. The high-school student then stuttered, “But, but-- The book ended with you getting--”
Dismissively waving a skeletal hand, the visitor corrected Xander, with the mystified others closely listening. “Oh, that was an entirely different situation, young man. No, your manifestation as the Halloween Tree wasn’t any fault of yours, though I do have to say, using it to collect every bit of demonic and other magically malevolent essences in this town was rather remarkable. In the end, no harm was done except for those who preyed upon humanity, which doesn’t bother me at all. As a matter of fact, a particular politician here was becoming an actual irritant, and you might’ve made up for a past intervention over a certain prophecy. Whatever the dimension, none of my counterparts on the whole appreciate those who steadfastly refuse to abide by their final appointment, whether in Samarra or elsewhere.”
At that point in the conversation, Giles had cautiously arisen from his chair to come over and join the pair. None of the others moved, with a white-faced Willow frozen in her seat, and the other Scoobies watching with perplexity. Pausing at Xander’s side, the Watcher cleared his own throat and murmured, “Xander, you seem to know this man. Would you care to introduce us?”
Twisting his neck to give G-man a honestly incredulous look, the teenage boy’s dubious expression was sustained even as he glanced back at the stranger. Who himself just gave Xander a tiny nod of permission, albeit with a growing twinkle of palpable amusement in his midnight-black eyes. Nevertheless, when Xander yet hesitated, the visitor spoke directly to the Sunnydale native in a soft but stanch promise: “I will do no harm to those here.”
Taking a deep breath while a weird smile suddenly appeared on his mouth, Xander jerked his head into a baffled librarian’s direction. “Sir, this is Rupert Giles, Watcher to the Slayer, master of tweed, and my friend. Giles, I’d like you to meet Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud.”
Stunned by what Xander had just identified him to be, Giles automatically extended his hand without thinking about the rest, and the Englishman then felt his fingers being engulfed in a very firm grip by someone with a clasp as cold as a midwinter's grave.