In the next split second (suggesting to any neutral observer the exceedingly suspicious occurrence of an irreverently-timed celestial rimshot), a hurled double-faced statuette of Janus shattered into numerous pieces upon the floor of a costume shop elsewhere in Sunnydale. Rupert Giles, busy with other things, never noticed how both sides of the small sculpture were now widely grinning in shared satisfied delight.
Swaying in his Western boots, Xander Harris looked over the stub of the replica revolver held out in his right hand at shoulder level.
Okaaaayyyy… There was Buffy getting up on her feet in her noblewoman’s costume and then chasing away down the alley a thoroughly diminished gang of fleeing demons. Somehow managing to outsprint all of his pursuers, a bent-over Spike still clutching at his nether regions and doing an ultra-fast waddle was at the forefront of this departing monstrous crowd.
Meanwhile, a sniveling Angel curled up on the alley floor. He resembled a black-clad ball of vampiric flesh, enfolding every bit of his awareness around the supreme agony in this former Scourge of Europe’s groin.
Glancing over his shoulder and from under the brim of his cowboy hat, Xander noticed Wils standing there and distractedly patting at her now-solid body, all while gaping at the preposterous scene before her. Next to the upright girl, Cordy was lying flat on her stomach on the stained asphalt, with several more rips in her cat costume revealing even further flashes of nubile flesh. The brunette’s eyes were firmly squeezed shut, with her lips moving in what might be thankful prayers. Or far more likely, an impassioned vow to make someone
soon pay for this, with their very last breath if necessary.
In a blur of panicked speed, Xander tossed away his fake weapon and spun around before running like hell. He was a few steps past Willow and Cordelia, even making it out of the alley in his headlong dash, before the truncated gun clattered to a stop on the ground. Without stopping at all for the next couple of blocks, the battered headgear, the eyepatch, the coat, and the boots were also separately discarded every hundred yards or so. This last abandonment of his Halloween costume included hopping along on the sidewalk while frantically pulling off his footwear, one boot at a time.
Eventually slowing down from sheer exhaustion, a gasping Xander continued to trudge through the Sunnydale night solely dressed in his socks, t-shirt, and jeans. Any thoughts of going home to futilely hide under the bedcovers from his upcoming horrible, short-lived fate were put aside when Xander came across a young trick-or-treater dazedly wandering around in the dark streets.
For the next half-hour, the teenage boy determinedly gathered up all of those lost costumed lambs, inwardly cringing when a few of the kids complained about their really bad headaches. Fortunately, this was all the evidence or extent of anyone’s injuries, perhaps due to the only random benefit of the Chaos magic cast tonight throughout the town. Another kind of enchantment shortly presented itself, when Xander delivered the kids back into their parents’ care at the high school.
It was a remarkably subdued occasion, with just about everyone there bearing the glazed expressions of undergoing a serious case of Sunnydale Syndrome. Xander was just too tired to care all that much. Plus, his own head started hurting then, and the agony in his skull seemed to exponentially increase at every heartbeat. Seeing off the last of the innocent victims of a really weird Hellmouth night, Xander plodded through the now-deserted school corridors towards the library where the Scooby Gang normally met. Hopefully, there’d be some aspirin in Giles’ desk to help with his personal headache.
It wasn’t until he was rooting around in the G-man’s drawers (*Oh, yuch! Think of something else, dude!*), that Xander groaned out loud over finally figuring the cause for the current intense hammering in his skull. Among all the gonzo magic tonight, there had to be some actual, physical side-effects, and one of these was surely in reaction to all the booze Marshal Cogburn had happily knocked back mere hours ago in Buffy’s house. That lawman might’ve disappeared from his head now, but he’d left behind every drop of this alcohol in Xander’s stomach. In yet another wonky example of him and the mojo stuff going wrong, he’d somehow bypassed the drunk stage and instead went right into hangover country.
Gloomily dry-swallowing a few aspirin, Xander sank into Giles’ desk chair. After an unknown amount of time blankly staring ahead over the desktop, Xander’s eyes fell onto the phone there. Coming to a quick decision, the young man grabbed the receiver, and he held this to his ear while dialing a very familiar home number. It didn’t take more than a half-dozen rings before an apartment phone was picked off the hook, and Xander at last learned everything about Ethan Rayne.
Among this lad’s increasingly nasty remarks about having friends like that and not telling the Scoobies even if you hadn’t heard about them for years, Giles hastily attempted to divert this irritated discussion by asking whether Xander and the others had fully recovered from tonight’s events. At the unexpected news the Watcher hadn’t yet been contacted by Buffy, Wils, or Cordy, Xander dolefully fended off this librarian in turn with a resigned, “Oh, they’ll be more than glad to tell you, and then blame it all on me.”
“What are you talking about?” came as his reaction from a bewildered Giles.
Xander just sighed. “Never mind. Look, when they call, don’t try to hide you know where I am. Might as well get it over with. I’ll be waiting in the library. So long, G-man, and if it makes you any happier, it’ll for sure be the last time you ever hear that nickname from me.”
He hung up the phone and then left it off the hook right in the middle of an alarmed “Xan--?” from the older man. Giving another, much more gusty sigh, this doomed boy luched onto his feet and he went over to take his usual chair at the library table. A guy might as well spend the last few remaining moments on earth in his regular spot. Xander leaned forward, rested his elbows on the tabletop, and he held his aching cranium.
Well, that was it for his memories, the seated teenager in a silent room filled with books despondently thought. The girls were taking their time, probably to draw out the suspense as to when they’d tear him into tiny Xander-bits--
In the middle of his depression, an incredible spike of pain stabbled through Xander’s brain, making everything else he’d endured lately seem like a pinprick. He moaned in genuine distress, actually feeling something tear deep inside his mind. Until, an entirely new incident then happened to the stunned high school student. This was a loud, triumphant, inner roar which was truly unmistakable to any American moviegoer:
boy, but ya got one mighty hard head! I been fighting my way through it all on my own the last coupla minutes!*
Frozen in utter shock, Xander continued to hunch down in his chair, even without realizing nothing hurt in his head any more. Abruptly straightening up at the table, this young man wildly looked around the library, but he saw no sign of whoever had just…spoken to him in what sounded exactly like--
Xander whimpered out loud, “Oh, no!
*Oh, yeah,* mentally chuckled Rooster Cogburn.