*I promise, kid.*
This gruff yet gentle inner voice interrupted Xander's angry swipe at his watering eyes a few moments later. Finishing off with a loud snuffle, the teenager got himself somewhat back under control while another waited patiently. This lead to an uncertain, “What's that supposed to mean, Rooster?”
*If ya like, everything. I won't break yer trust nohow. Not when ya just gave yer permission for me to come out when I'm needed.”
Xander had to blink at this. The Sunnydale native thought back of what he'd just said, how it could be construed as consent. No, not could. Xander had surely granted this permission by that condition which underscored his willingness to let another control his body. Considering it further, a Scooby Gang member had a very wry grin then appear on his face.
In a much more accepting tone, Xander inquired, “And, uh, that doesn't bother you? Even for us -- me, Buffy, Wils, and Giles -- we don't spend every second fighting against the Hellmouth oogly-booglys. It might be a while before you...”
Trailing off, Xander winced deeply at forgetting the whole you're-a-dead-man problem when those two girls, joined by Cordelia, eventually tracked him down at the school library and made him pay in full for exactly what a Halloween-possessed guy had done around them tonight. Xander's abrupt glumness over his approaching doom was quickly diverted by Rooster's jovial reassurance.
*Hellfire, Xander, what do ya think a lawman's livelihood is like, anyways? We ain't wanted by nobody 'til they really need us. Then, after all the shootings and hangings and cleaning up the messes, it's thank ya very much and don't ya got someplace else to go? It'll be no different here, I'm sure, and it never vexed me enough in the first place to be worth losing a minute's sleep over this.*
Encouraged by what he'd been told, Xander nodded in tentative acceptance. He glanced around the library and ventured, “So, what do we do now?”
Rooster didn't answer for a second or two, obviously getting his thoughts in order. He finally ordered, *Put out yer hand, willya, Xander? Like ya did when I made my gun appear in there before. There's a few things I wanna try.*
Xander immediately obeyed without the slightest qualm. But then, either he trusted Rooster, or he didn't. And right at this moment, the teenage boy had complete confidence in someone he secretly hoped would soon feel the same way about him. Looking down at his hand held at waist-height in the pose of gripping an imaginary pistol, Xander then saw this same Old West weapon materialize in the clutch of Rooster Cogburn, who'd just taken over the young man's body at the same instant.
Feeling again a little alarmed about being nothing but a helpless passenger carried along by another, Xander still watched with interest how Rooster strode over to the library main table. With expert fingers, the U.S. Marshal broke open the cylinder of his Colt and he emptied all the bullets from the chambers of this fiream. The falling rounds clattered onto the tabletop, rolling around for a second before they came to a rest there. Without any fuss or bother, every bullet promptly vanished from sight into thin air a split-second later.
At that point, a baffled Xander asked with the only part of his body he could still control, “What're you doing?”
*Ya’ll see. It just occurred to me, I didn't have my gun out all the time when it was my turn in yer hometown.*
Not giving Xander a chance to respond, Rooster smoothly snapped the cylinder back into position, and then with his now-free left hand, this lawman yanked open the waistband of the pants he was presently wearing. Casually bringing the muzzle-down revolver towards his body, Rooster then slid two-thirds of that immensely powerful handgun inside Xander's jeans until the trigger guard was at the waistband level. At that stage, a man very familiar with all types of handguns let go of the waistband while also giving the revolver butt a slight twist to hold it in place there.
During this last action, Rooster ignored the strangled, “Glllgggghhhh....” coming from Xander's wide-open mouth.
Instead, the lawman now took both hands away from his waist. Continuing to carefully eye the Colt remaining held in place by the snug jeans waistband, Rooster felt like cheering when rather than magically disappearing when he wasn't touching it, that weapon maintained its solidity. He proudly boasted, *Hah, I thought so! As long as it's pressing up close to me, like it was in my holster tonight, I don't actually have to hold it! Which means I don't switch places with ya, neither!*
The young, unlined face Rooster was currently wearing now frowned. He irascibly snorted, *Speak up, boy! Didn't you learn no manners--*
“YOU JUST STUCK A GUN DOWN MY PANTS!”
That horrified scream from Xander echoed throughout the library, leaving behind absolute silence in its wake. This was ultimately broken by Rooster's annoyed, *Yep, so what? In case ya missed everything, I unloaded the bullets first, so why all the fuss?*
Xander really wanted to close his eyelids in slow-burn exasperation, but these weren't at present under his control. All he could do was irately grit past his teeth, “You earlier fired off from what's now sharing my underwear more than a couple dozen rounds total the whole night, remember?
All without reloading one single time! So, where'd the new bullets come from?”
After hearing this alarmed sound from Rooster, a not very reassured Xander then had his head glance down at his fingers laying themselves with the utmost delicacy onto the revolver. With equal care, this weapon was removed from its hazardous site, all while Xander was inwardly whimpering. Even when the revolver came safely free to be held away from something he'd really like to use one day for its other intended purpose, Xander's mood wasn't improved at all by the sight of Rooster swinging open the revolver cylinder to show it was again loaded with six deadly projectiles.
Rooster wisely just stood there for a minute or so, not daring to speak to Xander. Only when he felt enough time had passed not to be yelled at for what'd just went on (or at least not too much) did the lawman risk, *Sorry, kid.*
Mentally sighing, Rooster decided enough was enough. *Look, Xander, nothing bad happened, so calm down, willya? I won't do something like that again without telling ya first, which is why we should talk over now what I wanna take a crack at next.*
“Oh, goody,” Xander responded in a tone dripping with acid. “What'll it be this time? Stick your gun in my mouth, and play Russian roulette with a full load?”
*What the hell are ya talking about?*
Xander grumped, “Never you mind. I'm not giving you any ideas. Nah, maybe I'll just wait for the girls to tear me to pieces when they arrive here. It couldn't hurt any more than whatever stupid thing you might come up with.”
*Hey, if I'm right, ya'll really like it,* coaxed Rooster. He nodded towards the far library wall before asking, *What's behind there?*
Looking at where Rooster was gazing, a possessed high school student did an inner baffled shrug. As long as it seemed there wasn't any chance of a repetition in becoming Eunuch Harris, he'd cut that crazy lawman some slack, so let's see where this goes.
Xander cautiously answered, “Nothing, really. That's the back wall for the school. Out beyond, there's the basketball courts, and our football field. After them, you come to Carson Street and the houses along this. Why do you want to know?”
Rooster looked puzzled for a moment. He hazarded, *Ya mean, playgrounds and such? Open space, where nobody is?*
“It's well past midnight, Rooster, and this is Sunnydale. Halloween's over, so any sensible human is fast asleep at home. Anything prowling out there right now isn't probably going to play nicely, share the swings, have a quick game of horse, whatever. Nope, uh-huh. Like I said, why--”
*Good,* calmly said Rooster, just before this peace officer brought up the revolver he'd been holding throughout their conversation, and he shot the wall.Tik
The muted noise of what sounded like a toothpick snapping barely reached the ears of a teenager while an astonished Xander watched a bullet lazily loft itself from the end of the gun barrel. This round was moving so sluggishly that he tracked with ease the lead pellet throughout its entire arcing path in the room from the muzzle to the far wall. Silently impacting the surface of this partition, the bullet bounced off there without making the least little mark on the paint. In the middle of its fall, this piece of lead vanished just like all other examples of this magically-affected ammunition.
“What the hell--?”
Xander's incredulous question was overriden by Rooster's triumphant chortle, *This time, I got it right!”
Right after, the older man now controlling their body flipped open the cylinder to intently peer at the chambers there. Five of those half-dozen regularly-spaced cavities drilled to hold bullets were indeed full, save for one empty chamber. Which, under the shared gaze of Rooster and Xander, now magically replaced itself to present a matched set of shells to this pair of witnesses.
However, a second later, all six bullets resting in their individual chambers now dissolved from existence. Only to next reappear, as if they’d never gone away in the first place.
*Damn, Xander, but this magic stuff is fun!*
“You mean, it’s you
who’s doing this?” blurted out the astonished teenager, who then felt his head nod in satisfaction.
*Nobody else but me, you betcha. I figgered it might work, but until I tried, I wasn’t really sure. It looks like what I had last night, just taking it for granted to refill my gun, is still working.*
“Well, okay,” Xander said dubiously, “but does that include what just happened, the slowest ever potshot? What was all that for?”
Rooster good-naturedly chuckled, “Oh, pretty much to see if I could do it. But it was also the least hurtful way to check on something else. Thinking back on some of the shots I made last night, there’s no way I in hell coulda done them for real, ‘less I somehow persuaded those bullets to go ‘zacktly where I wanted and
to hit as hard as if they was a load of canister fired outta a full-sized cannon. Couldn’t help but wonder if I might be able to do it the other way around.*
“And when you let loose that dawdling bullet, which would’ve lost a foot race with a crippled snail and didn’t even scratch the wall, you just proved this theory. Mainly, that you can magically influence your gun and its load of ammo,” mused an intrigued Xander.
Rooster enthusiastically nodded. *It don’t stop there, Xander! If you know an empty place close by with nobody around to be disturbed, we can try out at a good safe distance what happens when I fire a bullet that’s been told to go off like a stick of dynamite when it hits the target!*
There was a short pause in the library, until Xander then said in a rather faraway voice, “You know, it’s magic. There’s no good reason why we have to limit ourselves to just one
piece of dynamite…”
*I like the way ya think, sonny.*
A few minutes later, Xander came out from the boys’ restroom in the school corridor running by the library. Thankfully, some hurried experimentation just earlier had shown that for either of them when the other person was in charge of their body, the current spirit passenger could block out what was going on in the outside world, if necessary.
It’d been promptly agreed by both Xander and Rooster that neither of them particularly wanted
to watch each other dealing with a full bladder. So, since the younger man was once more in control at the moment, he’d gone to see a man about a horse while Rooster was basically looking off into the pretend distance of their shared mindscape until it was all over with.
Strolling back towards the open front door of the library, Xander was about to give the guy traveling along inside his head a polite mental nudge to indicate Rooster could now pay attention again. This was abruptly held in abeyance at Xander’s passage through the library doorway, which was interrupted by that entrance’s movable panel being right away slammed shut behind the teenager a few steps into the book-filled room.
Whirling around at this loud bang!
, Xander froze in sudden terror at seeing Buffy standing there by the closed door, glaring at him. More sounds of someone approaching nearer from inside the library had Xander frantically looking over his shoulder to observe Willow and Cordelia coming out from where they’d been hiding among the bookshelves, with matching wrathful expressions upon their faces. Wildly glancing around at the three angry girls advancing in unison while again dressed in normal clothes instead of their worse for wear Halloween costumes, Xander spent a surreal moment wondering exactly where this trio of Furies had found their new garments.
Did they really stop by their homes to pick out new oufits? Was it a matter of each separating to do this, or might alternate pairs have tagged along as guests when one of them went through their personal closets and drawers?
Hey, if he was going to get killed in the next couple of seconds, Xander would damn well select which completely trivial part of his life would flash before his dying eyes.
*Kid? You done?*
*What the hell’s-- Oh, them. Ya know, I didn’t think it possible, but those fillies are even purtier now, yessir. I like a gal with real spirit, and it also don’t hurt they’re all wearing skimpier stuff than what I use for rags in cleaning my shotgun. Do ya know just how lucky ya are, kid? Now that we’re all here, how ‘bout introductions all round, and then lessee how it goes after that…*
Just before they laid their hands upon him with the intention of committing serious violence against the form of Xander Harris, a threesome composed of Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg, and Cordelia Chase then saw this young man stiffen in place with genuine ire.
Next came the clenching of his fists, and then while staring straight ahead at a completely unoccupied part of the library, Xander bellowed at the top of his lungs, “Quit calling me a kid, Rooster! Also, I don’t care if you think you really hit the biggest jackpot of your whole life with a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead here! I’m not going to suggest to them we all get naked now and fuck like bunnies!”
Author’s Note: And that’s it. This is how I always intended ending the story, with Xander in even more trouble while Rooster Cogburn, a truly evil old coot, thoroughly enjoys himself.
If I ever feel like it, there might be a sequel. Or not.
Thanks for all the recommendations and reviews!