Disclaimer: All of the really good characters belong to Mutant Enemy and Crack-Head Joss Whedon, although he doesn't deserve any of them, considering the way he's destroyed them over the past couple years. I'm just borrowing all of the characters for a while. None of the other characters you might recognize that might be showing up belong to me either, but to their respective owners. There is no intent to profit from this. Only the story is mine.
Category: YAHF (Yet Another Hell-o-ween Fic).
Summary: A partial response to TTH Challenge 971 - Gabriel Van Helsing....Xander Lavelle Harris? (Van Helsing movie cross-over), which reads as follows:
One Halloween night, Xander Harris noticed a unique outfit. He is intrigued by it, and Ethan tells him it is an old movie prop, lying through his teeth. In truth, it is the outfit Helsing himself used when he was a hunter, only recently deceased, his outfit stolen from the Vatican by Ethan himself.
Halloween Night happens, of course, have Helsing do what you want. After that night... something strange happens. Helsing's memories....his abilities...everything stays. This leads to massive complications in some way!
MUST: Have Xander have Helsing's memories; Xander must have and know how to use Helsing's weapons; Xander must 'clearly' maintain memories - maybe an identity crisis at one point?
Have either Xander/Faith (later) or Xander/Cordelia pairing - lotsa fluff and romance NOT required.
Remember: Helsing lived for years! even without his pre-Vatican memories. Hundreds, in fact! Involve this.
Perhaps something involving the Vatican? To make this simple, maybe he never regained his memories from before the Vatican missions.
DON'T: Involve the anime Helsing, please and thank you! Don't care about much else. Feel free after all this
Time frame: Alternate Season 2 Halloween episode.
Character Bashing: None.
Feedback: Of course! Constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated. Flamers will be ignored and/or added to the lists of those to be painfully exterminated, once I am appointed to my rightful position as King of the World. (Yeah, you wait and see if I'm kidding. Dogbert had nothing on me.)
Author's Notes: As always, many thanks to Lori Bush, Bill Haden, Tim Joy and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this for me
Ethan's Costume Emporium
October 30, 1997
"Hey, cool! The Shadow!" Xander exclaimed as his gaze chanced upon one of the costumes displayed in the new costume shop that had just opened two days previously. "Haven't seen anyone around here carrying that one before."
"Excuse my impertinence, my young friend, but you are, regrettably, mistaken," a cultured, well-spoken voice announced in an easily recognizable accent.
Turning to face the unknown voice's source, the male Scooby found himself confronting a lean semi-distinguished looking but still somewhat smarmy individual.
"Allow me to introduce myself," the man smiled, with the slightest hit of a bow. "I am Ethan, the proprietor of this establishment."
"Glad to meet you, sir," Xander replied politely. "But what do you mean, I'm wrong?" he asked as his glances shifted between the display figure and the man who had spoken. A few steps beyond the shopkeeper, he could see Buffy and Willow engaged in some deep discussion about the maroon ball gown Buffy was currently holding, something about the fabric and cut that anyone possessing a Y-chromosome combination would never be able to fathom. At least Dawn was looking over some Star Trek costumes towards the front of the store; that, he could help with, if asked.
"Except for the kerchief being grey, instead of red, and the pistols being revolvers and not the ivory-handled Colt .45's that were the Shadow's trademark, that costume's almost an exact match for the description the novels used to give about him," the youth pointed out reasonably.
The mannequin in question was dressed in a black mid-calf-length leather duster possessing a multitude of buckles and interior pockets, a black snap brim hat, dark grey shirt, a leather vest with built-in shoulder holsters for the aforementioned revolvers, black pants and a dark grey neckerchief, with black gauntlets and lace-up knee boots completing the costume.
"Hmm, I see your point, my young friend, now that you've pointed out the similarities," the newcomer agreed after a quick assessment of the display mannequin.
"I feel obligated to point out, however, that the personage represented by this costume was, in fact, an actual historical figure and not some fictional hero thought up by a liquor-inspired hack writer seeking to increase the circulation of whatever magazine that deigned to publish his works," the man stated with an unquestioned air of certainty.
"This particular individual, as it happens, was widely recognized as an unofficially authorized agent of the Vatican, who traveled the world investigating, reporting on and handling the most serious and significant reported cases of supernatural activity," he went on to state. "According to various accounts I have read, he was, quite frequently, the sole representative of the Church investigating the alleged occurrences and, accordingly, was empowered to deal with instances of reported appearances of demons and monsters that were harassing and threatening the local populace in whatever manner he deemed necessary and appropriate."
"Cool!" Xander grinned enthusiastically. "So, just exactly who was this guy?"
"His name was Gabriel Van Helsing," Ethan replied with a small smile. "Rumored to be foremost among the Vatican's field representatives across the globe and, if certain unverified and long hidden accounts are to be believed, possessed of some sort of supernatural power himself that was not given him by the Church."
"Wow!" the younger man exclaimed, quite clearly impressed with the biography the shop owner had just provided.
< That's exactly the kind of guy we could use around here, to help support Buffy, > Xander reflected to himself thoughtfully. < Especially since, unlike Deadboy, this guy wasn't part of the problem to begin with. >
"The attire you see here before you on the mannequin is as exact a match to that actually worn by Van Helsing in his heyday as is possible to accomplish in this day and age," the shopkeeper proclaimed with a wave of his hand towards the figure displayed.
< As well it should be, > Ethan smirked privately to himself. < And if the Vatican ever discovers who it was who stole their precious agent's clothing from the catacombs in which they'd stored them, I could end up in a great deal of trouble. That is, assuming that they'd ever do an audit of all the brick-a-brack they have moldering away under that place. >
Oblivious to the Englishman's inner thoughts, Xander came to a decision. It was a lot more than the two dollars he had originally intended to spend, but something about the outfit seemed to be calling to him, and part of him was responding.
< And besides, anyone can be a soldier, > he rationalized his selection to himself. < Deciding to become a monster hunter is something else entirely. >
"All right then," he returned the Englishman's smile. "You talked me into it."
The Summers Household
Late that same night
"My goodness, Xander, you certainly different," Joyce Summers commented as she stepped back to let him enter in the standard unspoken Sunnydale invitation. "That's quite the grim and foreboding look you've got going for you. Exactly who is it you're supposed to be?"
"According to the various books I checked, the Vatican's foremost vampire hunter of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and possibly the nineteenth centuries, Mrs. Summers," the imposing-looking brunet replied with the barest hint of a smile on his face.
"I am he who hunts the monsters that haunt the night," he announced in a deep voice that reminded her of the old-style horror films that she had seen the brunet, Buffy and Willow watch and make fun of, on weekend movie nights.
"Your most humble servant, Gabriel Van Helsing, at your service, my dear lady," he went on, sweeping off his hat and bowing deeply as he took Joyce's hand in his and kissed the back of it.
"For such a beautiful woman as yourself, you have but to ask of me, and it shall be yours," he murmured, looking up at Joyce with a level stare that had her smiling and blushing as though she were seventeen again.
"Very smooth, Xander," Buffy commented with a small smile as she carefully descended the stairs, trying not to trip on the billowing, ornate skirt of her own costume.
"Very James Bond-ish of you, in an eighteenth century sort of way," she noted, a bit surprised at how dashing he looked in his costume. The long and shaggy, somewhat unkempt brunet wig he wore that framed his face gave him a somewhat wild and feral look, she decided as he looked him over.
"And this enchanting young woman must be your sister," Xander stated with absolute conviction to Joyce as he turned and bowed to Buffy.
"Ooh, *very* smooth, Xander," Joyce smiled her pleased approval of his comment as he turned to the currently-brunette bewigged Slayer and reached out to take her hand and kiss it, too, as he had Joyce's.
"I am Gabriel Van Helsing, my good Lady," Xander introduced himself to Buffy. "And who is it that I have the honor and pleasure of meeting this good evening?"
"Lady Elizabeth Connolly," she smiled back as she curtsied, easily dropping into the costumed identity she'd thought up for herself. Her fingers curled around the golden locket that Angel had given her the previous week, after confessing that it was one of the few remaining keepsakes he had managed to keep of his now long-deceased mother's possessions.
Deeply touched by what she saw as a classically romantic gesture, Buffy had immediately decided that, for this night, she would adopt the behavior and mannerisms that she believed the noblewomen of her undead soulmate's era would have possessed and in that manner, in her imagination and for this night, at least, she would be Angel's beloved, his bride.
"And delighted I am to meet you, good Lady Elizabeth," he told her. "I would hope you do not consider me exceedingly forward when I say that your father must be extremely proud to see that such radiant beauty runs so strongly in his family's line," he added, as he glanced from her over to Joyce.
"Xander, you shouldn't be flirting with my mom," Buffy warned him as she saw, from the corner of her eye, her mother beaming at her dark-haired friend. The fact that one of her best friends was flirting (entirely too seriously, in her opinion) with her mother was making her more than a little uncomfortable. At least Dawn was already at her party at Kit's house; she didn't think she could handle Xander flirting with all three of them.
"And why should I not?" Xander replied, still in the same deep voice. "Beauty such as the two of you possess is something that should be loudly appreciated and praised, not merely quietly admired from afar."
"Would you like to come by for dinner tomorrow night, Xander?" Joyce asked, grinning to herself as she watched her daughter squirming uncomfortably as she listened to the dark-haired youth flirting shamelessly with her. "I'm planning on having a pot roast. I know how much you like things hot and juicy."
She almost laughed out loud when she saw the indignant and affronted glance Buffy threw her way when she heard that last statement.
"So, Xand, what's up with you deciding to dress up like Angel, hmm?" Buffy asked loudly, as she decided that ignoring her mother's comment entirely and changing the subject to something much more innocuous was the best way to handle the rapidly spinning out of control situation she was finding herself mired in.
"On the contrary, my dear Lady Elizabeth," Xander shook his head in disagreement as he turned to her, his mouth narrowed in a dark, almost-feral smile, "it is the creatures of the night who choose to emulate *my* style of dress, in a futile attempt to ease their fear of one whom they know will ceaselessly pursue them to the ends of the earth, if need be, in order to bestow upon them their righteous punishment."
The intensity of her friend's gaze when their eyes met made a small shiver run down the Slayer's spine, and she involuntarily took a half-step back before she forced a laugh out at Xander's melodramatic pronouncement.
"Boy, you really are getting into the spirit of the costume, Xand," she half-laughed, in an attempt to lighten the unexpected tension that suddenly seemed to have developed between them.
"I but do what I must, my Lady," he replied enigmatically, still maintaining that same half-smile she found so - disconcerting.
The tension was broken by Willow's joining them, the white sheet with 'BOO!' written across it successfully concealing whatever it was she wore beneath it, and the three of them quickly departed for the school, to pick up their charges.
The small statue bearing two faces seemed to pulsate and glow for an instant before a wave of mystic power suddenly burst outwards, inundating the town with the focused energy drawn from Janus' domain.
As the ethereal arcane tsunami roared outward, Chaos flared and things that should never have been, suddenly *were*.
< What deviltry is this? > he thought to himself as he suddenly found himself standing in the middle of what appeared to be some small village green while around him small children and a variety of strangely garbed people ran around in panic, seeking shelter from the numerous small demons and other creatures of the night that were attacking and assaulting them.
Pulling one of his .454 caliber revolvers from its holster under his arm with his right hand and the collapsible, spring-loaded, silver-plated (not to mention blessed by His Holiness the Pope) stake Carl had developed for his use in his left, he turned to more closely examine the area and the creatures running so riotously through it.
Chaos ruled everywhere he looked; overhead a small brightly colored figure in red and blue somersaulted through the air, swinging from the upper branches of the towering oaks surrounding them to land on, and then leap from, the roofs of the various buildings he could see surrounding them while a small crowd of what appeared to be dwarven bears chased a larger man-shaped form in white armor down along the street before him that was paved with some unknown stone-like substance.
Well, as long the creatures focused their attentions on each other, he was content to leave them to their own devices, he decided. He needed to ascertain exactly what was going on here - who had summoned him here, and for what fell purpose? - before he could make any more exact determination of what he needed to do, and how best he might accomplish that purpose.
The last thing he could recall with any definite certainty was a disquieting conversation he'd had with Carl in the friar's private quarters regarding the younger monk's inquiries into what information the Church might have regarding his background, a subject the good Cardinal Dolmen had somehow managed to avoid addressing yet again in their last conversation some few days before.
He was distracted from further consideration of his own situation by loud screams issuing from a neighboring street and he immediately broke into a run towards what might be a fellow soul in need of aid.
Katherine Connelly looked around her in terrified confusion, trying to comprehend what could have happened and how she might have been transported to wherever this place was that she found herself.
It was only a moment ago that she and her family were being terrorized and brutalized by a demon wearing the guise of her eldest child, and now, suddenly and without warning, she abruptly found herself in some never-before-seen town that looked as though it were itself being besieged by hordes of demons and other creatures of the night that scrambled off into the darkness surrounding her.
Looking around in wonder and disbelief, she found herself filled with mixed emotions; she had somehow been miraculously healed of all of the physical injuries that that monster had inflicted on her (although how could she stand remembering the violation she had felt as that creature touched her in those places that only her husband had ever had touched her?), and she was now apparently free of the menace of the horrifying creature that her eldest child had become, but she had no indication that the rest of her family had been equally blessed.
For all she knew, both of her daughters, her sole remaining son and her husband were still being tortured by the demon, their souls and bodies suffering unspeakable pain and degradations even as she herself walked free in whatever this place might be.
As she stood there, momentarily stunned and traumatized, uncertain of both her situation and her location, Katherine heard an unfamiliar sound coming from behind her and she slowly turned her head to look over her shoulder, her heart pounding in anticipation of what she might discover awaiting her.
Willow wasn't concerned about all the weird stuff that was going on around her.
Nope, not concerned or anxious at all.
She had left concerned and anxious several miles back and was heading directly towards panicked and was considering blowing right past that and moving briskly onto completely freaked out and out-of-her-mind with worry.
She'd felt faint a couple minutes ago, and thought that possibly she might even had passed out for a moment or two, when she found herself lying on the ground.
It was only when she pushed herself to her feet and had looked down to see her own body lying on the grass at her feet that she had realized that she was now a ghost.
A real, honest-to-Heavens ghost!
The not-able-to-touch-anything, walk-through-walls type of ghost that you read about in novels and saw in movies!
Which meant that she was dead!
'Cause living people couldn't walk through walls, you know! Only dead, deceased-type people could do things like that!
Which meant that she was no longer among the living.
Which meant that weird things were happening, and since weird things were part of Buffy's job description - that is, if Slayers actually had any kind of job description, which she really didn't know anything about, but she kind of doubted that they'd have, since hey, really not the kind of job that people are gonna be intentionally looking to fill, considering the working conditions and the lack of long-term careers prospects - but she was starting to babble in her head and she couldn't afford to do anything like that because she needed Buffy to investigate the weirdness going on so that she could figure out how to get her body back and she better go find Buffy right now before anything more weird happened!
The redheaded hacker-turned-involuntary-ghost took a moment to orient herself and then started off in the direction she remembered Buffy heading off in with her group of Trick-or-Treaters.
"Scoundrel! Leave that woman alone!" Gabriel ordered as he quickly holstered his pistol before grabbing the brigand before him by the shoulder and spinning him around and away from the terrified woman cowering before the heavyset thug.
"Eh? A pretty boy, is it?" the smelly, stinking brigand who had been attempting to accost the red-haired beauty sneered as he cast an insolent eye over the dark-haired, dark-clad man who had pulled him away from the woman.
"All right, then! If'n you're looking for a beatin', little man, ye've come to the right place for it," he announced as he threw a massive fist at the other's head.
Gabriel dodged the punch easily and then drove a hardened fist into his assailant's solar plexus, following it up with piledriver knee to the midsection and a devastating left hook that dropped the now-unconscious bandit into a pile on the ground.
"Hmmm," he murmured reflectively to himself as he glanced down at the insensible pirate. "For some reason, pummeling that brigand gave me a strange sense of closure."
Turning his attention to the still clearly fearful young woman who was holding her hand against a large bruise on her right cheek as she shrunk away from him from her position on the ground, he carefully reached out his hand as he asked, "Are you unhurt, my lady? Did that ruffian injure you in any manner?"
"Xander?" the semi-conscious brunette (she was scarcely more than a girl, he noted) asked, as she stared up at him in mixed relief and incredulity.
"My name is Gabriel Van Helsing, good lady," he told her politely, as he looked her over with some concern. Her complexion, aside from the bruise on her cheek was quite pale and she appeared to be having difficulty focusing on him as she spoke.
Even as he watched, she opened her mouth, as if she were about to say something to him, before her eyes suddenly rolled upwards into her head and she collapsed to the ground.
Willow ran down the street, searching for Buffy and taking advantage of her currently immaterial state to run right through any obstacles blocking her path (including a bitchy Harmony Kendall). She ignored completely the shocked expressions of the various individuals she left in her wake and concentrated on looking for her friends.
If weird bad stuff was happening in Sunnydale, then Buffy and Xander were probably knee-deep in the middle of it already.
And they might be needing her help, although what kind of help an immaterial ghost-girl would be able to offer them she really wasn't sure about in the least, but if it turned out that they did need her help, then she was going to make sure that she was there to give it to them.
She was half-way down the street she'd last seen Buffy's group visiting and all she could see around her were dozens of mini-monsters and terrified trick-or-treaters and their parents. She was trying to decide in which direction to head when she got to the next intersection when she heard someone calling her name.
Looking over, she was relieved to see Angel heading in her direction, a look of concern and bewilderment on his face.
"Willow, have you seen Buffy anywhere?" he asked, while trying not to goggle at the completely uncharacteristic, if flattering, outfit the redhead was currently wearing.
"Ohmigod Angel I'm so glad to see you 'cause there's all kinds of strange things happening all over the place and some of the children I was escorting turned into little monsters and started fighting with each other before they ran off and then I wasn't feeling too good and I think I might have passed out and when I got back to my feet I was a ghost and I can walk through cars and walls and other things and I've been looking for Buffy and Xander and I can't find either one of them and then I heard you calling me and have you seen either of them 'cause I'm worried that something weird has happened to them too," the extremely worried and agitated redhead babbled at warp speed to the non-comprehending vampire who was staring at her in complete bewilderment, having only managed to comprehend approximately one in ten words of the nonstop jabbering that he had just heard.
"Uh...no?" he hesitantly replied, not at all sure he understood what the redhead was asking/ telling him, although he was relatively sure that it involved both Buffy and Xander in some manner.
"Look," he continued, before she had a opportunity to resume her monologue, "it's total chaos out here, and no one seems to have any idea what's going on or who's responsible.
"Why don't you go find Giles and see if he can start figuring out what's going on while I try to find Buffy and Xander?" he suggested. "We'll check things out and then meet you guys back at the library, okay?"
"Okay, Angel, that's a great idea," Willow instantly agreed, having taken a moment to calm herself slightly. "We'll meet you there."
Turning, she immediately began making her way to the school, while Angel stared, dumbfounded, as he watched her run right through two parked cars and a strangely familiar mini-Vulcan calmly taking readings with her Tricorder that were obstructing her way.
Shrugging his bafflement away for the moment, Angel turned and began his search for the two missing teens.
Gabriel was at the woman's side in an instant and managed to catch her before she hit the ground. He carefully checked her over for any other injuries before finally deciding, as he said a quick prayer under his breath, that she must have passed out from a combination of both the stress of being attacked and the hopefully minimal residual trauma of the blow to the face she had suffered at the hands of her assailant.
Easily lifting the unconscious woman in his arms, he looked around in puzzlement, trying to determine the most likely way to the center of this town in which he had unexpectedly found himself, the better to find a physician or possibly a hospital wherein the woman could be more appropriately examined for injury.
"Saint Anthony, patron of travelers and lost causes, guide my steps," he murmured under his breath as he gave a final glance in each direction of the street on which he stood, before finally making a decision and heading off to his right, the unconscious brunette carefully cradled in his arms, while around them the various transformed revelers rushing to and fro seemed to part around them as he walked, never coming closer than twenty feet to the unusual couple as they moved through the night.
Katherine gave a start and a small gasp of surprise upon seeing some type of wheeled carriage with two large lamps of some kind heading directly towards her despite the absence of any horses either pulling or pushing it. As she stood staring at it, she realized that the disturbingly loud noise she had been hearing was issuing from the oncoming coach and she hurriedly moved out of its path, a shocked and disapproving expression on her face as she thought she understood some of the words the driver yelled at her as he passed by.
Her brow furrowed again with confusion when she realized the strange vehicle was apparently made completely of metal and not wood, as she had expected, but she then shrugged off her puzzlement as it being of no real import to her situation, and turned back to further consideration of her current circumstances. She needed to figure out where she was, how she'd gotten here, and what she could do to rescue her family from the demon who had been torturing her and them.
Looking around, she took a firm grip on her churning emotions, forced herself to focus her attentions and stop worrying her currently-fruitless worrying about her family and began heading towards what she hoped was the center of the town she'd been transported to, as she prayed to Heaven that she would be able to find someone there, be it priest or policeman, who would believe her and help her find and rescue her family.
Gabriel moved along the street, searching for a doctor or a hospital wherein the woman he carried might be examined and treated, having noticed only peripherally that the numerous nonhuman creatures filling the street seemed to be avoiding him and, in some cases, making a wide detour around him.
It was as he was making his way, his gaze taking note of every being moving along the street, that he observed the clearly distressed, dark-haired young woman who was hurrying down the street in his direction, her constant anxious glances around her as she walked first catching his attention.
It wasn't so much her clothing as her mannerisms that made her stand out in his eyes. While she appeared lost, she also seemed to radiate a strength of purpose and character that flared like the sun to his eyes, a relentless refusal to simply give up and surrender to whatever forces were trying to crush her. Her very manner of bearing was something that would be expected of a woman a good many years older than she appeared to be.
"Please forgive me if I appear forward, dear lady, but from your demeanor and appearance, it would seem that you are in need of assistance," Gabriel stated quietly as he carefully approached the woman. "Once I have delivered this young woman to the care of a doctor, I would be glad to assist you in any manner you deem necessary.
"Please, forgive my rudeness at not introducing myself immediately," he went on politely, somehow managing a slight bow despite the fact that he was currently holding an unconscious young woman in his arms. "Gabriel Van Helsing, at your service"
The young woman examined him carefully for near a full minute, as though trying to peer into his very soul, Gabriel felt, before finally nodding and allowing the barest hint of a smile to grace her face.
"I am Mrs. Katherine Connelly, and I can quite sincerely say that I am quite pleased to meet you, Mr. Van Helsing," she replied with an equal amount of etiquette while essaying a small curtsey.
"And while I thank you for your offer, good sir, I think you will believe me a raving madwoman upon hearing me speak," the brunette beauty then went on.
"And in truth, I am not completely certain that I am not," she confided scarcely a moment later. "I would almost prefer to doubt my sanity than to know for certain that the horrors I remember have truly occurred."
"What are these horrors of which you speak, good lady?" he instantly questioned her, his darkest suspicions coming to the fore of his thoughts. "For I have some experience of having encountered horrendous things, myself."
"Some demonic creature has possessed my eldest son and attacked our family," the dark-haired beauty answered. "One moment, I was being tortured by the demon, after watching it beat, torture and then drain the blood from my children and my husband's bodies, and then in the space of an instant, I suddenly found myself alone and apparently unharmed, only a short distance from here, with no sign of the demon anywhere I can see."
Hearing the woman's story, Gabriel's eyes narrowed at the description she related, and he reflexively examined their surroundings yet again, checking to see if the monster she had described might possibly be playing some warped and diabolic game by seeming to set her free, and then pursuing and capturing her once again.
"Very well, my lady. If you will come with me, I will help you find a place of safety," he offered. "And once I have secured this young woman's safety, I will assist you in finding your family."
"You cannot possibly realize how much your offer means to me, good sir," the woman smiled at him, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.
A low moan from the woman he was carrying distracted their attention and Gabriel immediately turned all consideration to her.
"Wha- what's going on?" Cordelia Chase demanded, a bit weakly admittedly, as she opened her eyes.
"Ah, you're awake," the one-time May Queen heard a vaguely familiar voice tell her. "How are you feeling, dear lady?"
Although the voice definitely sounded familiar, the way the guy was talking to her was completely different than any she'd heard before, she realized after a moment, so she turned her head to get a better look at whoever it was that was holding her, and was thunderstruck to find herself in the arms of Xander Harris!
Wait a minute! What the Hell was going on here?!
She had just awoken to find herself with both one incredible monster of a headache and a jaw that felt like the football team's field goal kicker had used her head for the kickoff instead of the ball, and the recognition that she was being carried in a pair of reassuringly strong arms that turned out to belong to none other than one of the biggest weirdness magnets in the school, Xander Harris.
Surprisingly reassuringly strong arms, too, she noted thoughtfully, before she shook her head and realized she must be suffering from some sort of brain trauma or something. After all, there was absolutely nothing at all reassuring about Xander Harris, she reminded herself reflexively as she felt her feet touch the ground and she swayed the least bit unsteadily until she felt herself being steadied by a firm and strong, yet gentle, hand on her arm.
She also abruptly realized that she hadn't answered Harris' question, and she was staring at her with an expression of focused, yet somewhat impersonal concern she'd never seen on his face before; it was as though she was a complete stranger to him, someone he'd never met before this moment.
"I'm...I'm fine," she replied as she wondered exactly what it was about him that seemed so different from the goofball she attended classes with everyday. "Uhm, I think I am," she qualified her response a moment later, as a mild wave of dizziness passed over her.
"Were you assaulted, my dear? What happened to your escort? Did he flee or was he, too, attacked by the same attackers who assailed you?" the acknowledged ruler of Sunnydale High School's social scene heard someone else asking her, and finally realized that there was someone else with her and Harris.
It took her less than a second to recognize Summers in her Renaissance ball gown and brunette wig, and then her mouth went into automatic put-down mode.
"Where's your sidekick Casper, Summers?" she asked a bit acerbically. "She finally take her costume to heart and disappear?"
Even as she was greeting the normally blonde weirdo, Cordy realized that there was something different about her tonight, also. And that was before the bottle blonde snapped back her own somewhat caustic response at her
"I know not who you believe you are speaking to, girl, but you will keep a civil tongue in your mouth when you speak to me. I will not tolerate being spoken to as though I were some tavern wench the like of which your father is no doubt overly familiar with," Buffy snapped at her.
"Speak to me again in such a manner and I will wash your mouth out with soap, do you understand me?" the smaller girl informed her with an expression on her face that reminded Cordy entirely too much of one that had been frequently worn by one of the nannies she had had, back when she was still a little girl.
"Ladies, please, we do not have time to squabble amongst ourselves," Harris said as he held up his hands and smoothly tried to interpose himself between the two women. "The night around us is not safe for ladies such as yourselves, and I have promised to assist you in locating your family, Mrs. Connelly," he reminded her. "The more time wasted arguing, the less we have to locate your loved ones, madam."
Whatever else Harris might have said next was lost in confusion when the three heard someone calling out a name and the sound of running feet approaching them.
"Buffy! Are you all right?" they could all hear someone asking as they turned to find a dark-haired man in his mid-to-late twenties heading towards them. Cordy recognized him as that guy, Angel, who she had met at the Bronze a couple weeks back and who Summers seemed to have some kind of fixation on.
Which caused her to be more than a little surprised, then, when the bottle-blonde let out a shrill scream of terror and jumped behind Dweeb-boy, as though he could possibly save her.
"God in heaven!" Summers started screaming. "It's him! That is the demon who tortured me and my family!"
And then, what happened next was even weirder!
Gabriel instinctively moved to stand between the two women and whoever or whatever it was that was approaching them. Even as he heard Katherine screaming in fear, he recognized the newcomer and drew his pistol, his lips pulling back in a snarl of rage and hate.
"You?" He practically spat as he greeted the new arrival. "Do you remember what I swore, the last time we saw each other, Angelus?" he asked as he lined his weapon on the vampire and fired. The demon wore an expression of surprise and bewilderment at Katherine's reaction, the demon hunter noted absently, which instantly shifted to one of agony as the blessed pistol round tore into his shoulder.
The demon was extremely fortunate that Katherine's frantic movement to distance herself from her tormentor had jostled his hand enough to ruin his aim, he reflected as he pulled his blessed silver-plated blade with the wooden inlay from its sheath on his hip.
The shock of being shot had caused Angelus to revert to his real demonic features, Gabriel noted as he slid forward and continued his attack on the monster.
Fortunately, for some unknown reason, the vampire was slow to react and he was able to knock aside the demon's guarding arm and drive his knife into its heart. And the expression of shock and disbelief on the vampire's face an instant before his stolen body turned to dust would be imprinted in Gabriel's memory for the rest of his life, he decided with a feeling of satisfaction; the monster would never again be able to threaten and destroy innocent lives, as he would be spending the rest of eternity in Hell.
He had just finished assuring himself that both of his companions were safe and unharmed when he heard another pain-filled remnant from his past issue from the shadows.
"Well now, I have to say, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that Peaches would be taken out by a whelp like you, boy," the hated voice declared.
"I'd guess the poofter must be screaming and cringing with embarrassment from the sheer ignominy of being dusted by a wet-behind-the-ears prat who can barely hold a stake," he heard the speaker continue on with what could only be described as satisfaction filling his words.
"Although I gotta thank you for dusting the poofter before he could try to stop me from draining the Slayer there with you." The speaker was blond-haired vampire who was emerging from the shadows accompanied by a group of various-sized demons and other creatures of the night that were slowly spreading out to encircle the three of them. "And to show you my gratitude, I'm gonna kill you quickly, and not stretch it out for hours."
"Ah, William," Gabriel replied as he recognized the demon-possessed corpse walking toward him and the women. "It's so good to see you again. You ran away before I could properly deal with you and your fellow parasites for what you did at that convent in Marseille.
"I was wondering whether you would finally managed to summon up sufficient courage to show your face once you realized I was in the area," he said loudly, "or whether you would skulk about in the shadows and either run again or merely attack your prey from the rear as is your usual wont."
"What the hell are you talking, Whelp?" the Billie Idol look-alike growled as he stepped forward and headed towards the trio upon hearing the other's words. "And the name is Spike."
"Actually, I believe your proper appellation would be William the Bloody Awful Poet," Gabriel smiled as he took a step forward to focus the horde's attention more fully on him, while keeping his arm close at his side so as to keep his pistol concealed for as long as possible. "And I'm merely pointing out to your followers here some of your more distinguished character traits, dear William.
"Especially, that delightful little habit you have of letting your minions bear the brunt of any fighting that might occur so that you can remain safely ensconced in the rear of the confrontation, far from any possible danger."
"I've taken down two Slayers, mate," Spike growled as he stepped closer, out of the shadows of the neighboring buildings and more fully into the cone of light thrown by the nearby streetlight.
"Of course, you have, William," Gabriel agreed, a contemptuous smirk on his lips as he nodded his head in agreement. "As you so proudly boast, everyone knows you took out two of the most feared combatants known to the demon world, all by yourself.
"Of course, few people mention that you did so only after both of the teenage girls you eventually killed had been worn down by incessant battles with your minions and other members of that infamous group you traveled with," he continued.
"What was it you were called? Ah, yes, I remember now - the Pox of Europe, correct?"
"We were called the *Scourge* of Europe, you bleedin' fool," Spike snarled. "And how is that some barely literate buffoon like yourself even knows about the Scourge, eh, Harris?" the vampire demanded, his brows narrowed with anger and annoyance at the way the youth facing him was speaking to, and about, him.
"Harris?" Gabriel repeated the name thrown at him, a perplexed expression on his face. "I know not of any 'Harris,' William. I believe you must have confused me with some other former acquaintance of yours. Allow me to introduce myself properly.
"I am Gabriel Van Helsing, at your service," he declared with a slight bow.
He grinned to himself as he noticed the slight stiffening of his opponent's body and that of several of the demon's larger followers upon hearing his name, and took advantage of their brief distraction to pull out his other pistol, before opening fire upon the circling horde. Each brief report of his pistols was instantly followed by a scream of pain as he targeted not only the blond-haired demon but all of the larger monsters ringing them as well.
Spike was just starting towards the arrogant little blighter to wring the bastard's bloody neck when he saw the prat's hand start to lift and his intuition started screaming in his ears. He altered his step forward into a dive to the side and the bullet that would have drilled straight through his wizened, unbeating heart instead merely tunneled into his right side, leaving a bloody passageway carved through him that felt as though it had been made with a freakin' chainsaw dipped in holy water!
Nearly a dozen of his minions were dusted one after the other, he saw as he rolled behind the nearest car, and the punk who he'd thought was just some kind of loudmouthed poser was the one responsible!
Sure, he'd seen him dust Angel, but he'd figured the boy'd only succeeded because he took Peaches by surprise. Maybe there was more to the kid than he'd originally thought...In any event, he needed to get the hell out of there before he found out the hard way what else the kid might be capable of.
Although, now that the kid was occupied with all of the mini-monsters he'd recruited from the bunch that had somehow magically showed up in town earlier tonight, he thought to himself, this might be actually be the best time to bag himself that third Slayer.
With that thought in mind, he darted in and grabbed the dark-haired woman whom he had identified as the Slayer by her scent and bent her backwards across the hood of the nearest car. He wanted to make sure that this wanker who'd killed nearly all of his minions got the chance to see him snap her neck before he took off, to show him the futility of trying to stand in his way.
Suddenly, some sort of energy wave seemed to pulse across the town, and the next moment, all of the mini-monsters had reverted back into children and their student escorts. Frightened, the kids began to cry and complain, calling for their parents.
Spike looked back at what, a moment before, had been his demon horde and then straightened up. He pulled on the Slayer's hair to pull her up with him and abruptly found himself holding only a wig in his hand.
Buffy smiled at him as she pushed herself up off the car's hood and punched him first in the gut, and then twice in the face.
"Hi, honey. I'm home," she told her would-be assailant as she then followed up her attack by kicking him in the chest, making him stagger back into another car. Spike then grabbed a length of pipe leaning against a trash can and swung it at her, only for Buffy to catch the end of it and pull him around and back against the car he had her pinned her against just a minute before. She then used the pipe like a quarterstaff and swung it into the vamp's jaw and jabbed him in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain.
"You know what?" she grinned at him. "It's good to be me."
As she swung the pipe around again for another blow, Spike threw himself across the hood of the car and took off into the darkness of the yard behind it.
Looking over at the crowd of elementary school students standing around and crying and seeing Xander standing in their midst staring at her, the events of the night suddenly came rushing back to her in full force.
"Oh my god," the Slayer said. "What just happened?"
Sunnydale High School
"Are you okay, Buffy?"
The tiny blonde looked up from staring at her hands to the wide-eyed redhead who was sitting at the large mahogany table they normally used for researching the current menace of the week and staring at her with a worried look on her face.
"Uhn, I don't know, Will," Buffy shook her head, confusion warring with pain, sorrow and some other emotions Willow wasn't quite sure she could identify.
"Do you want to talk about what happened? Can you remember whoever you were?" Willow asked, a bit hesitantly, not entirely sure of what she could say or do to help her friend.
She grimaced as she looked over to the far side of the library, where Xander and Giles were currently trying, apparently in vain, to convince a clearly distraught and extremely uncooperative Cordelia Chase that she really hadn't seen what she thought she saw earlier in the evening. Judging by the way things had been going for all of them so far tonight, she really didn't expect either of the two men to be very successful. Despite all of her faults, Cordelia was actually quite intelligent, not too mention extremely strong-willed, so trying to make her think she had imagined seeing Angel dusted and Spike and his horde of mini-demons attacking her, Buffy and Xander was almost certainly going to be wasted effort.
"You know, the thing is, I'm not really sure I'm upset that Xander dusted him," Willow heard Buffy saying, so she focused her attention back on her best girl friend's words, intent on making sure she didn't miss anything the blonde had to say.
"Huh? Why do you say that, Buffy?" she immediately asked, trying to be as solicitous as she could possibly be for her friend.
"Because I can still see in my memories everything Angelus - that's the name Angel used back when his demon was still in control - I can still see everything he did to his family, Will," Buffy whispered to the redhead, her face ashen in complexion as her mind once again vividly replayed the memories Katherine Connelly had brought along with her, and which she still possessed.
"After he was Turned, he went back to his home and he killed the rest of his family, all in different and horrible ways," she went on. "And he saved killing his mother for last, just so she could watch him torture her husband and children before he killed her."
Buffy looked up at her friend and her eyes were wet with tears.
"Part of me remembers Angel and I think of him kissing me and holding me and I want to cry because he's gone," she went on with the barest trace of a sad smile. "And another part of me, the part that remembers what the demon did to Katherine and her husband and children, makes me want to jump up and praise god and thank Xander for what he did."
"Angel wasn't Angelus, Buffy," Willow reminded her friend. "Angel was the soul; Angelus was the demon."
"Angel was the soul that was punished for being stupid enough to let himself get turned," Buffy corrected the hacker. "The demon was still there, Will; it wasn't in control, but it was always there.
"When she saw Xander dust Angel - I mean, Gabriel, 'cause that who really did it - Katherine felt like she had been touched by God, Will; that was how happy she was that a monster like that was gone," she said.
"If he was still around, I don't think that I could ever look at him the same way again, Will," she said, her face mirroring her doubt and indecision. "Every time I'd look at him, I'd see the demon doing those things, and feel what Katherine felt as she was forced to watch her family die. I'd never be able to let him touch me without feeling like my skin was crawling, knowing what he did to those poor people.
"Maybe it's better this way," she said, simply, shrugging her shoulders in bewilderment as she looked back down at her hands restlessly clasped around each other in her lap.
"I just don't know."
It was a short time later that when Buffy looked up to find Xander standing quietly off to the side, staring at her with a look that was a mixture of profound sadness and calm contemplation.
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry for the way things turned out, Buff," he said quietly as he stared her straight in the eye. "I'm hoping you realize that it really wasn't me that staked Angel; it was the person whose costume I wore that did it."
"Yeah, I know that, Xand," Buffy nodded her head in acknowledgement. "I know that because I wasn't me, the same way you weren't really you."
"Who were you, then?" he asked.
"Angel's mother," she told him, the tears starting to flow as the accumulated emotions of the evening finally caught up with her and overwhelmed her. "And I can remember everything she felt when she saw him come walking up to us, out on the street - the terror and the hatred and the joy she felt when she saw your body dusting him.
"And I can still feel all of it, the same way I can still feel the way I did when he held me and he kissed me," she added before she broke down completely. "And even though I'm sad that he's gone, there's this little part of me is almost obscenely happy that he's dust, because he hurt so many people and he enjoyed it, Xand," she whispered even as she cried.
"What kind of person does that make me, Xand?" she asked him between her sobs.
"Just a very human one, Buffy," he whispered back as he held her.
"Just human, that's all."
"This could prove to be a better solution than the Souled Vampire," one glowing being said to another as they watched the scene in Sunnydale play out.
"Yes," the other agreed with a slight nod. "Letting 'The One Who Sees' keep Van Helsing's memories and abilities could be passed off as the work of the trickster god. And it would not leave The Darkness an opening for a countermove... Very elegant, actually. It leaves the upkeep of 'The Father' in Jasmine's hands instead of our own, but does not preclude his usefulness to us."
"But with one important difference, my brother: 'The Mother' and the 'Dark Slayer' will not fall to the darkness with an empowered 'One Who Sees' guiding them. This may advance our plans to destroy the Black Thorn and bind The First, if," she gestured in warning, "and only if, we adjust our plans carefully."
"It still may not be enough. Perhaps we should quietly inform the Vatican that one of their former agents has regained the field. They would prove to be a much better system of support than the Watchers."
"Let the new game begin."