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Rupert Giles moodily sipped from a tumbler of single malt Scotch whisky. During his pre-dinner drink, the Englishman seated in the den at the rear of his apartment tried to remember just when he’d become absolutely convinced that Xander Harris had been permanently affected by this teenager’s Halloween possession. It certainly hadn’t been evident right after this holiday, or even several months afterwards.
Xander himself had always steadfastly maintained he remembered nothing at all between leading his assigned trick-or-treaters around the Sunnydale nighttime streets, and then finding himself nose-to-nose confronting an enraged Spike, whose charred scalp was still emitting faint wisps of smoke. Fortunately, Buffy had also regained both her memories and Slayer abilities then, so she’d quickly seen off this scorched-bald vampire. Performing his usual speedy retreat, Spike had scuttled away, all while muttering dire threats of vengeance against that soddin’ bloke who’d inadvertently set his hair on fire.
Surprisingly enough, Willow hadn’t been all that helpful, either. It was true the red-haired girl had been the first of the Scooby Gang to meet the fatigues-clad soldier looking around in total bewilderment at his new surroundings. Still, she’d been too worried about her current form as a ghost, plus dealing with an amnesiac Buffy, to pay all that much attention to what their male companion had mentioned about his life. It’d been mostly nicknames, anyway, about his fellow soldiers all serving at the same army camp with a rather peculiar name. Instead, Willow became increasingly annoyed at their so-called protector, due to his utter ineptitude, which involved a great many accidental discharges of the now-unloaded rifle this soldier was awkwardly carrying. At least he hadn’t shot at anyone (or anything) who didn’t really deserve this, and there’d actually been some really amazing ricochets which had laid low several of the more aggressive demons who’d come out on the Sunnydale streets to see what all the fuss was about tonight.
Gazing thoughtfully at the neatly-folded costume set onto the desktop before him, Giles took another sip of his drink. This time, the swallow of the fine booze was done in quiet celebration, since the former Sunnydale High librarian had always privately disapproved of the liaison between his Slayer and her vampire consort. He’d been wise enough to never express his feelings concerning this when Buffy was in mourning over what happened to Angel in her house on that Halloween. Unlike Xander, who’d been banished from the Slayer’s presence for a solid week after she’d caught him doing the Snoopy Dance at learning the glorious news from Willow.
At any rate, a close but discreet eye had been kept upon Xander by the Watcher once this exiled lad rejoined the Scoobies in the school library. The older man soon wrongly convinced himself no harm had been done to that youngster by Ethan’s bloody Chaos spell. Well afterwards, Giles had rebuked himself with deep chagrin for missing all the signs, but honestly, there’d been no evident indication his Halloween mental guest was still part of this boy. Moreover, Xander had already been a consummate slacker beforehand. A cheerful disregard for any possible forms of authority, the talent to instantly fall asleep at any time and in any position, and a voracious appetite were quite common for most teenage males, after all.
Even the more unusual occurrences weren’t readily recognizable among Sunnydale’s ongoing weirdness. Besides, Xander had previously demonstrated the capacity to absorb an incredible amount of physical punishment in the group’s battles against Hellmouth villains, and then simply walk away from this without showing any ill-effects.
The point when Giles’ suspicions returned full-blown was around the time the Scoobies had to deal with the Judge. After learning how Spike and his minions re-assembled this unholy monster, Xander and Cordelia came up with a plan to sneak into the local Army base near Sunnydale and steal something from there that’d blow apart their latest Big Bad. Unfortunately, a couple of hours later, the pair pulled up into the SHS parking lot early the next morning, where their small group named after a cartoon dog was waiting for them. Seeing Xander driving a purloined Army truck at first raised everyone’s hopes, despite how thunderous Cordelia’s expression was when this beautiful brunette then angrily got out of the green-painted vehicle. Stalking away, Cordelia shouted over her shoulder, “I don’t ever want to talk about it!”
This furious announcement was explained in part when the rest of the group then investigated the truck’s contents in the rear compartment. Only to find in there, not a single gun or missile or cannon, but instead several tons of potatoes. All unpeeled, as a matter of fact.
Several seconds later, while being lifted effortlessly off the ground by Buffy’s hand clenched around his throat, Xander had sheepishly wheezed to the irate others, “Uh, guys, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but hey, we’ll think of something else, right? I mean, we always do-- YAAAHHH!!!”
After throwing Xander into the back of the Army truck to join the potatoes, Buffy and the rest had gone off in utter disgust to come up with a new plan.
A day later, at the Sunnydale Mall, Xander had redeemed himself, somewhat. During the beginning of the conflict between the Scoobies and the Judge backed up by Spike, Drusilla, and several vamp underlings, this young man had been creeping through a hastily-evacuated department store, planning to come up onto their foes from behind. This plan instantly went to hell when Xander tripped and pushed over a clothes mannequin during his fall. This started off a supremely absurd chain-reaction of destruction matching any classic Warner Brothers cartoon, until the wave of ruin culminated in a grand piano squashing flat the Judge, and the resulting wooden debris also taking out Spike and Dru.
In his den, Giles gulped down the remainder of his drink, despite this insult to a fine Scotch. The man rather hoped his unwanted memories would be clouded by the booze, but the former British Museum employee still shuddered at the recollection of the report he’d had to write for the Council following their latest preposterous exploit. The scathing reply he’d received from them hadn’t been very pleasant, at all. In any case, it’d been among the reasons why the Watcher had since kept silent about the possibility that Xander Harris was suffering from a case of magical anarchy. From then on, Rupert Giles had merely observed with increasing disbelief the ensuing ludicrous incidents.
Among them had been the defeat of Mayor Wilkins. Remembering this, Giles seriously contemplated having not just another drink, but actually finishing the rest of the expensive bottle in one continuous guzzle. Even now, he tried not to ever think about the crazed, joyous look on Xander’s face when this young maniac had been completely filling up Sunnydale High with his home-made explosives. It was true the subsequent tremendous blast had more than taken care of a human politician transformed into a giant snake. Too, once she’d recovered from her deafness at being a bit too close to ground zero after being chased through the school buildings by this serpentine demon, Buffy had grudgingly conveyed her thanks to Xander. Accompanied by numerous obscene gestures which a well-brought up young lady shouldn’t have properly known in the first place.
Glancing at the opened letter laid out on the table next to the set of Army fatigues, Giles smiled weakly. Regardless of the Englishman’s recent mixed emotions, he actually did enjoy receiving Xander’s regular missives chatting about his recent experiences in the service of his country. To everyone’s resigned surprise after graduation, their friend elected not to enroll with them in the city’s college, but to instead join the Air Force.
Around then, the now-unemployed school librarian had asked without thinking just why that specific branch of the military? The quick answer had chilled Giles’ spine, particularly due to the abrupt, insane gleam appearing in Xander’s eyes when he’d happily declared, “Bombs, G-man, bombs! They’ll teach me how to make ’em, care for ’em, take ’em apart, and best of all, I’ll get paid for it!”
Well, judging from the letter arriving today, this lad was still in one piece, and since his recent leave to attend a very special event here, he’d been transferred to a new post with the odd cognomen of Cheyenne Mountain. There’d also been a vague mention of joining a deep space radar telemetry group, but Xander had glossed over this, to instead eagerly ask about his Scooby Gang comrades at college. Most importantly, how was his adult pal dealing with married life?
“Dinner’s almost ready, English,” chuckled Jenny from the doorway to the den. Lifting his gaze from Xander’s letter, Giles beamed at his wife. All while once more the bemused thought went through this husband’s mind how an unknowing young man had almost prevented two people from meeting, much less coming together in marriage just a few weeks ago.
Janna Kalderash, alias Jenny Calendar, and now simply Jenny Giles, had been in Sunnydale for only a few months as the new school computer teacher before she’d received the incredible news that somehow the vampire their Gypsy clan had long ago cursed was now destroyed, and the tribal vengeance taken against Angelus was over and done with. Nevertheless, she was directed by the elders of her clan to find out the full details. Jenny did her best to follow these instructions, but she couldn’t learn anything. It wasn’t until she became fully aware of the Scooby Gang and their involvement with the souled vampire known as Angel that the teacher met with Giles and confessed to everything. Already attracted to the stunning dark-haired woman, the British librarian took in stride the news Jenny had been concealing her real identity, since nobody had yet been harmed by this minor deception.
Prudently waiting until his Slayer wasn’t around, Giles brought Jenny to his workplace where Xander and Willow were expecting an usual Scoobies conference. Delighted by their mentor’s evident infatuation with his companion, his younger friends teased him about this for a few minutes, before Willow began telling the story of Halloween night all over again. Settling contently in his chair at the main library table, a very happy Xander listened once more, for maybe the thousandth time, to his yellow-crayon friend speaking about just how a certain brooding vamp got dusted back then.
After the whole gang had gathered together in their various altered forms (i.e., Willow, Xander, Buffy) and the unchanged persons (Cordelia and Angel) at the Slayer’s house, a demon’s sudden attack caused a brainless noblewoman to flee in complete panic from this residence. Angel was about to leave and search for her, until a teenage boy dressed in Army fatigues came dashing out of the kitchen, waving the first weapon on hand he’d grabbed from there, since his rifle was now empty. Declaring in the middle of his rush towards the exasperated vampire that he was going to join in the hunt for what’s-her-name, the running soldier missed seeing a rug on the floor in his path, and he promptly tripped over it, falling right at a startled creature of the night, who’d been too taken aback to even think about dodging.
At that point in the story, Xander sighed in sheer bliss, and then he excitedly urged Willow to go on. Giving her bestest bud since kindergarten a fondly annoyed look, the red-haired girl started talking again. Over specifically just how astonished Angel the vampire had appeared right at the very moment a barbecue fork stabbed directly into his chest, sinking in there so deeply that the wooden handle of this cooking tool had then penetrated a demon’s unbeating heart.
Once she’d stopped laughing, Jenny had joined the library group full-time in their campaign to protect Sunnydale from supernatural menaces. She’d provided needed advice from a female adult not related to Buffy over this young woman’s struggling to deal with her destiny as a Slayer, started teaching Willow to sensibly control her newfound magic, and let down Xander easily in his intense crush on herself. During all this, Rupert Giles finally offered his heart to a lovely lady.
It’d wound up with Giles and Jenny taking new jobs after graduation at UC Sunnydale when his Slayer started attending this school. A cautious courtship had eventually ended with the joyful pair joining together in matrimony, and moving into a college apartment. The new Scooby Gang was now patrolling the Hellmouth from the campus, save for Xander Harris making his own life far away from his birthplace.
At this point in his thoughts, Giles cocked an ear at where Jenny was getting everything ready in the dining room of their apartment. Placing his empty glass onto the desk, the Englishman sent a pensive glance at the cleaned Army fatigues lying there, the only remnant of an incredible Halloween years ago. Buffy and Willow had disposed of their own outfits elsewhere, but Xander came back later that night to the school where he’d put on his costume in the first place, changing again to his original clothes. The fatigues had been stuffed into a library wastebasket, until the next day, when a very irritated Giles had recovered this. Since Ethan managed to make his escape while also taking with him the pieces of the Janus statuette and the rest of the other costumes, Xander’s Chaos-affected attire was the sole souvenir Giles could find.
Unfortunately, the Watcher hadn’t ever discovered anything helpful from this clothing. Not a single bit of information, whether magical or mundane. Regarding the latter, in a mood of idle curiosity some time after the holiday, Giles had tried to see if there was any possible way to trace the original owner of this uniform. However, a thorough examination of the faded garments had revealed they were nothing more than generic military gear ranging in age to as much as decades before the present. The only identifying mark to be found was a name embroidered in black thread on the inside of the shirt, at the back of the neck.
When Giles asked Willow if she could use her infernal machine known as the computer to check further into this, the neophyte witch dryly replied to him, “Giles, from what you’ve told me, the costume’s from the Vietnam era, or even as far back as Korea! I’m sorry, but there’s absolutely no way, not with such a common name on it. If the owner had some really bizarre or strange last name, we might have a chance, but nope, it can’t be done. I mean, over the last forty years, there must’ve been hundreds of guys named Bailey who joined the Army!”
Author’s Note: Yep, it’s a crossover with Mort Walker’s ‘Beetle Bailey’ comic strip. Given how that perpetual goof-off is a walking disaster in his normal army life at Camp Swampy, bringing him by Chaos magic to his doppelganger in Sunnydale undoubtedly would’ve resulted in absolute bedlam on Halloween night, affecting everyone in Sunnydale whether innocent or guilty. Also, there would’ve been no way Beetle would completely disappear afterwards from Xander’s mind, not when they were so perfectly matched.