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E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, One)

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This story is No. 10 in the series "Tales of the LSH (Legion of Sunnydale Heroes)". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: YAHF (Yet Another Halloween Fic). Xander's sick during Halloween, so his friends and classmates pitch in to substitute for him.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-Centered > Theme: HalloweenGreywizardFR1516,5162226,81323 Jan 0623 Jan 06Yes
Disclaimer: Buffy and the Scoobies belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. None of the others belong to me, either. Deal with it. I have.

Time Frame: Season Two through episode 6, 'Halloween.'

Spoilers: None.

Character Bashing: None... Well, maybe Snyder... But he deserves it.

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: If you want to archive this, just let me know where, please.

Author's Notes: Many thanks to Lori Bush, Tim Joy, Drake the Archer and Bill Haden for beta-ing this and their very helpful suggestions.

~~~

Sunnydale High School
October 30, 1997

"Miss Summers. Just the juvenile delinquent I've been looking for."

Buffy grimaced when she heard the croaking behind her that revealed the presence of the troll that had taken Principal Flutie's place after his unfortunate demise the previous year, but quickly forced a strained smile onto her face as she turned to face the principal.

"Principal Snyder! What did you need? Sir?" she added, as pleasantly as she could after a moment's consideration

"Halloween must be a big night for you. Tossing eggs, keying cars, bobbing for apples, one pathetic cry for help after another. Well, not this year, missy," he said as he held out a clipboard with a sign-up sheet on top of it.

"Gosh, I'd love to sign up," Buffy smiled insincerely, "but I recently developed carpal tunnel syndrome, and can tragically no longer hold a flashlight."

"The program starts at four, the children have to be back at six," Snyder growled as he held out a pen. "Although I suppose you're upset that your fellow juvenile delinquent won't be able to join you tonight."

"Yeah, Xander is extremely sick with a severe case of the flu," Willow chimed in helpfully from her position a few feet back from the troll. "He should be back to, well... normal in a few more days."

"It's a shame he didn't come down with something terminal," Snyder commented sourly. "The news of his death couldn't help but increase morale," he said with obvious scorn, oblivious to the girls' glares at his words.

"Not that any of you would-be felons would be able to appreciate anything that might contribute to the public's general welfare," he added, tossing a scornful look towards all of the students in the general vicinity and ignoring all of the equally disdainful looks that were returned to him

"Oh, and costumes are mandatory," he noted, pausing to fix them all with a baleful eye. "And they must be of recognizable historical or literary figures, not simply some clothes thrown together to convey some slap-dash concept that might come into your empty heads."

"That Harris kid has been nothing but a trial to me ever since I was unfortunate enough to be assigned here," he complained to himself as he headed back down the corridor to find other students to harass. "And as if it's not enough that he's become my own personal albatross around my neck, what with not being able to find enough justification to expel him, those abominable shirts of his make my eyes bleed!"

"Great. I was gonna stay in and veg tonight. The one night a year things are supposed to be quiet for me and I get shanghaied into supervising groups of yard apes on their candy-extortion rounds," Buffy complained as she turned to face her friend. "What are you gonna go as, Wills?"

"Well, I was gonna go with my perennial favorite, a generic ghost," the redhead answered, "but since Snyder said we have to be some recognizable historical or literary figure, I'm gonna have to give it some more thought.

"It's a real shame Xander's sick," she added. " 'Cause he'd probably be able to think of something that would fit the Troll's requirements for costumes and still manage to give him an ulcer," she elaborated with a smile.

"Yeah, if it's one thing Dweeb-boy's good at, it's managing to piss people off," Cordelia surprised both Buffy and Willow by chiming in and agreeing with the redhead's words. "It's like it's this incredible gift or something he's got."

"You know," Willow said after a moment's thought, with what Buffy decided was a truly evil grin, "how do think Snyder would feel if he had a dozen Xanders to put up with?"

"You know, Willow," Cordelia smirked appreciatively after giving the redhead's question some consideration, "if you're suggesting that we all dress up as Dweeb-boy in order to torment Snyder, I have to admit that that actually is a great idea!"

Looking around at her fellow classmates with what could best be described as an evil grin, Buffy asked, "How many people here would be interested in dressing up like Xander? You know, just while escorting the kids on their rounds, so Snyder could see us dressed like that?

"I'm asking so me and Will can get enough of his shirts to go around, and maybe make Snyder's eyes bleed, literally," she quickly clarified her intentions.

A general round of laughs and a quick show of hands allowed the two girls to determine the requisite number of Hawaiian shirts to get and Cordelia volunteered to supply an equal number of the Tweety-Bird watches that were just as much a part of the Xander Harris image as the eye-searing Hawaiian shirts.

"Okay, then, we'll all meet here tomorrow afternoon at three-thirty so we can go in and meet Snyder as a group," Buffy instructed.

"We'll wear the shirts over our regular costumes and if we're lucky, the Troll's head might explode from the overload of seeing us all together," she smiled.

"Uh, Buffy," Willow half-whispered as she nudged her friend with her elbow, "Hellmouth here, remember? Something like that could actually happen."

"As Xand would say, and the down side of that would be what?" the Slayer grinned back at the redhead. "Come on now. Let's go get our costumes so we can show them to Xand when we go to get his shirts, okay?"

~~~

Ethan's Costume Emporium
Thirty-seven minutes later


"Permit me to say, young lady, you would look simply magnificent in that. A noblewoman emerging to take her rightful place in leading the teeming masses of humanity toward their rightful destiny," the somewhat quasi-distinguished, yet still oily-looking gentleman with the English accent proclaimed from behind her as Buffy considered the maroon ball gown hanging on the rack that had caught her eye as she passed.

"Um, I'm not sure," the petite blonde confessed as she admired the gown. "I mean, I like it and everything but the Troll - I mean, our principal - said we have to come as a recognizable historical or literary figure, and while I could go as someone like Queen Victoria or someone like that, I'm trying to think of something that would really yank his chain and make him spit up blood, and still fit his requirements," she admitted with a small grin.

"Ah, an admirable goal," the man grinned back. "And one I can fondly relate to.

"I remember some of the incompetents and reprobates I was forced to endure as part of the so-called teaching staff in my own schooldays. A bloody bunch of pillocks, I must admit," he agreed, more than a little delighted with her attitude.

Buffy's eyes lit up with mischievous delight as her gaze wandered around the surrounding shelves of paraphernalia and focused on one of the smaller costume cosmetics, as the memory of reruns of one of the many fantasy shows she, Willow and Xander enjoyed watching triggered inspiration she could use to twit Snyder's requirements. The idea of the character begin so antithetical to her own Calling just made the very concept so much more enticing that she simply couldn't resist.

The laughter erupting from the shop's owner, Ethan, when she shared her inspiration might have seemed a little over-the-top, she thought later, but his insistence that she could take the costume free of charge if she merely informed everyone who inquired where she had gotten it was just too good an opportunity to pass up, so she gathered up her costume and accessories and headed home before he realized he was being too generous and decided to charge her, after all.

~~~

"My Lord, you will find the irony of this evening's activities entirely to your liking," Ethan announced to no one in particular as he watched the diminutive blonde exit his shop. A wide grin encompassed his face as he considered the potential for Chaos the young woman's choice offered his patron once she donned her costume, and he decided he couldn't possibly have hoped for anything better than the girl's selection would provide.

He wasn't quite sure exactly how whatever enhancements the girl's aura indicated she'd received might mean as far as the Chaos spell was concerned, but whatever they might be, they could only help ensure that this All Hallow's Eve would be one to remember for many years to come.

~~~

"Hey, Xand, how're you feeling?" Willow smiled warmly at her oldest friend as she and Buffy walked in to find their friend lying on his bed, looking wan, covered with perspiration and more tired than they could remember ever seeing him.

"Well, I gotta admit, I've been better," he wearily, as he managed to summon up an extremely washed-out smile for his girls.

"Boy, you look like something a Polgara demon threw up, Xand," Buffy grinned at him as she plopped down at the foot of his bed and playfully smacked his foot.

"Gee, thanks for the kind words, Buff," he shot back, nudging her with his foot.

"Xand, is it okay if we borrow a few of your shirts?" Willow asked, a bit hesitantly.

"Mind if I ask what you want them for, first? Last time I wore one, you and the Buffster here wanted me to take it off. And not in a good way, either; it was so you guys could burn it," he reminded her.

"Well, it's for a really good cause," Buffy assured him, giving him a wide smile. "Since you can't be around to drive Snyder crazy for Halloween, there's a bunch of us trying to fill in for you."

"Although, we're probably not doing half as well as you do," Willow noted in a tone combining both discouragement and admiration.

"Snyder said your shirt made his eyes bleed, so we're hoping that a combined effort might induce a cerebral hemorrhage," Buffy added with an impish smile.

"Well, as long it's for such a worthy cause, I'll be glad to help out," the male Scooby smiled with true appreciation of the effort his friends were making to make him feel better.

"Feel free to help yourself. They're all clean."

~~~

Sunnydale High School
October 31, 1997
4:55 PM

"All right, who in the name of all things sane are you supposed to be dressed as, Summers? And the rest of you, too? I instructed you all to dress as a recognizable historical or literary figure! And that - that - that abomination of a shirt is NOT part of any kind of suitable costume!"

Snyder's face was already edging towards a deep burgundy color, Buffy noted with satisfaction as she turned to face him, an innocent expression fixed on her face.

"Actually, Principal Snyder, it is," she protested politely, looking down at the Hawaiian shirt she was wearing over the deep red ball gown she had chosen at the costume shop.

Forcing herself not to squint in pain at the green, white, yellow and red pattern making up the shirt she had selected from Xander's closet as the most tolerable piece of fabric he possessed, she then glanced over at the Troll and announced in a serene voice, "I'm dressed as Alexandra Harris in a costume modeled on the vampire character, Janette, from the TV show, Forever Knight, sir." She even flashed him a small smile that let him see the plastic fangs she had selected to go with the yellow contacts and brunette wig she was wearing along with the oversized Tweety-Bird watch all of the student escorts were wearing.

"Who or what are you supposed to be, Rosenberg?" the little Ferengi look-alike demanded, as he spun on his heel to stare at the redhead in disbelieving outrage at her long-sleeved faux chain mail shirt, leather pants and knee-high boots, all of which were covered by one of Xander's shirts. A serviceable-looking long sword with a leather-wound hilt hung at her left hip, making her an image of lethal innocence that somehow seemed to suit her perfectly.

"I'm, uh, I'm Alexis Harris, and I'm dressed as Red Sonya, a character created by Robert E. Howard," she answered confidently, overcoming the initial quaver in her voice that had resulted from seeing his scowl when she saw the broad smile Giles wore and the approving, beaming grin and thumbs-up Jenny Calendar flashed her as they watched with the other faculty advisors.

The Troll's glare merely intensified as the remaining students began identifying the costumes being worn beneath the eye-searing shirts they had each borrowed.

"Alexandra Harris," Cordy sneered genteelly at the little man, "and I'm going as Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, from Marvel comics." The garish patterns on her shirt didn't clash quite so badly with the black domino mask and body stocking with white gloves and boots she wore as some of the other shirts had.

"Alexia Harris, dressed as Captain Samantha Carter from the TV show, Stargate SG-1," Amy announced with a smile, the brilliant orange and green shirt she wore over her desert camouflage fatigues and battle harness actually seemed to almost blend with the rest of her costume.

"I'm Alexandra Harris, and I've dressed as Emma Frost, a Marvel Comics superhero," Harmony announced, giving Snyder a blatantly insincere smile.

"Alexis Harris, and my costume is that of Cecilia Reyes, a member of the superhero team, the X-Men," Aura said.

"Hi, I'm Lexi Harris, and I'm Cassandra the Immortal from the show, Highlander," Aphrodesia informed Snyder

"Alexander Harris, and I'm dressed as Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott," Jonathan volunteered before paling at Snyder's expression and scurrying off to the side.

"Alex Harris, costumed as Captain Peter Blood," Larry informed everyone present with a small smile as he joined the other escorts.

Tucker Wells' face was almost completely unrecognizable beneath the blue-black fur of his costume as he announced, "I'm Lex Harris, and I'm going as Henry McCoy, also known as the Beast, a mutant superhero and biophysicist who's a member of both the Avengers and the X-Men."

"I'm portraying Xander Harris when he is costumed as Doug Ramsey, the Marvel Comics mutant superhero known as Cypher," Andrew declared proudly. "My mutant power is the ability to decipher any existing language, although the ease with which I can perform the translations will vary depending upon the quantity and quality of the samples provided," he announced, before letting his voice trail off and hurriedly moving aside to join the others when he noticed the Troll's glare.

"I'm Alexander Harris and my costume is the detective and ex-Secret Service agent, Joe Hallenbeck, from the movie, The Last Boy Scout," Percy smirked.

"Xander Harris. Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Knight," the laconic musician known as Oz announced, an imperturbable expression on his face as he passed by the furious administrator.

Scott Hope wore a grim expression completely in character for his costume as he stated in a no-nonsense voice, "Xander Harris. I'm Batman," before moving on to take charge of his assigned group of elementary school children.

Realizing that any attempt to order the high school students to alter their costumes would only subject him to more public humiliation, Snyder managed to curb his fury sufficiently to send the various groups on their way.

// I'll take care of them tomorrow, // he contented himself with promises of retribution to be gained the following morning. // All of them. //

// And when Harris finally does come back, I'll find some way to expel him and make it stick, // he swore to himself. // I'll make sure that boy regrets even being born. //

~~~

A wave of eldritch energy swept through town, and as it passed, everyone who had purchased any part of their costume from the recently opened costume shop was changed as reality itself was temporarily reshaped. The costumes soaked in the Chaos energy and the people wearing them were transformed into whatever character they had represented themselves as when they donned their costumes.

Xander lay on his bed, dozing fitfully in a feverish state while his subconscious mind, which still retained a vestige of the Prima Spirit which had possessed him the previous year, worried with vague disquiet at the various perturbations in the mystical atmosphere emanating from the commercial business section of town.

While the Spirit had, indeed, been banished, it had still left a mystical imprint on the boy's soul, strengthening both the normally almost dormant intuitive sense all humans possessed and his sensitivity to the ebb and flow of the arcane energies that permeated the town, and further increasing his already strong protective instincts towards those he considered 'family.'

As the surge of Janus' Chaos magic engulfed the unsuspecting populace, a pulsing, coruscating aura surrounded Xander Harris, the light illuminating his bedroom to a level that would have instantly reduced any vampire nearby to dust.

~~~

Buffy had just finished her rant concerning the evils of handing out toothbrushes on Halloween to her own group of revelers when she suddenly felt faint. At that same moment, everyone in her vicinity wearing an enchanted item from Ethan's shop was struck by the Chaos wave and they, too, began transforming into their alter egos.

A brief instant of vertigo overwhelmed her and then she felt as though she was somehow being pushed aside as another consciousness took control of her body at the same time that she felt her body *changing*. Her mouth and jaws shifted to absorb and incorporate the suddenly-no-longer-plastic fangs she'd gotten from Ethan's shop and some kind of energy seemed to permeate her entire body while her senses, already superhumanly acute, seemed to jump to an even higher level of sensitivity while a millennia of memories flooded her mind.

***

Xander blearily opened his eyes and wondered why he was dreaming that he had been incarnated as some of his friends and/or classmates, both male and female, who were dressing as various fictional characters, but merely gave a mental shrug, decide it was a result of a combination of his fever and the Halloween holiday and then closed them again and waited to see what exploits his various aspects might experience.

***

Xander/Buffy/Janette looked around in confusion, wondering exactly what had just happened and where he/she might be, ignoring the screams of the frightened children running around him/her.

He must be dreaming, he realized after a moment's consideration, although why he would be dreaming he was a female vampire from some television show, he really couldn't comprehend. After deciding it must be a result of the fever he was suffering, he decided to just sit back, so to speak, and see what kind of things his subconscious could come up with in the way of adventure.

The area around him/her quite obviously wasn't Toronto, he/she noted as he let the pseudo-memories from the dream wash over him - the absence of towering concrete buildings in the area was his/her first clue that he/she had been transported somewhere he/she didn't recognize, while the almost overpowering presence of both magic and evil permeating his/her environment was causing his/her stomach to roil in much the same way it had when he/she was still mortal and subject to the all too prevalent diseases that ravaged the cities and countryside around him/her.

He/she had only felt this way once before since he/she had been brought across, when he/she and Nichola had inadvertently stumbled across that accursed town in Bavaria when fleeing the wrath of some incensed townspeople.

He/she was on a Hellmouth!

***

Xander/Willow/Red Sonya glared at his/her surroundings as he/she searched the area for any sign of the mage responsible for bringing him/her to whatever demon-infested place this might be, as he/she settled back and let the dream proceed, even though he/she really couldn't figure out why his/her subconscious had decided he/she should be dreaming about being a fictional Amazon warrior from a comic book stuck here in good old Sunny-Hell.

When several moments passed and nothing attacked, he/she decided the best way to handle things was in tried and true cinematic fashion: start walking around and wait for the bad guys to find you and attack.

***

Xander/Cordy/Felicia Hardy somersaulted over a large, furry, Bigfoot-like creature that attempted to attack him/her, and smiled when his/her bad luck power kicked in and his/her would-be assailant tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and fell to the ground, knocking itself unconscious as its head impacted with the unyielding pavement.

***

Xander/Amy/Sam Carter stumbled as he/she suddenly found him/herself standing in the middle of what looked like your standard Northamerican middle-class suburban neighborhood, and not his/her office twenty-seven levels beneath Cheyenne Mountain. It was easy to tell that, since Stargate Command didn't have groups of elementary school children running around screaming and being chased by alien life forms that bore more than a passing resemblance to fairy tale monsters and characters that looked as though they had been chosen at random from the racks of a local movie store.

He/she reluctantly drew his/her pistol as she looked around, trying to determine exactly what he/she should do in this particular situation. He/she'd have to be very careful if he/she actually did fire on any hostiles that night be in the area; there were far too many innocent civilians around to risk having a stray round miss its target.

// Damn it, this is the kind of thing that happens to the Colonel or Daniel, not me! // he/she reflected, shaking his/her head in frustration at the lack of any data on which he/she might base his/her decisions, before moving out on a reconnaissance mission.

***

Xander/Aura/Cecilia Reyes abruptly found him/herself standing in the middle of panicked children, all of whom were screaming and running around as small creatures of varying appearance either chased them or fought each other on the yards or in the street before her.

// What the hell's going on? // he/she thought to him/herself as he/she reflexively expanded his/her personal force field to encompass the children around him/her. A moment ago, he/she was performing an inventory of the medical supplies in the infirmary beneath the Mansion, the next, he/she's in the middle of some kind of riot or catastrophe.

// Hopefully, the latter as opposed to the former, // he/she prayed, noting the lack of any organized violence. // Could it be some kind of attack by the surviving Morlocks? // he/she wondered, basing her supposition on the clearly non-standard-human appearances of some of the creatures causing trouble on the area.

// Or maybe it's some kind of alien invasion. //

As he/she began examining the closest of the crying children, he/she cursed under his/her breath that his/her life had become so weird that he/she wasn't at all fazed to be considering any of his/her preceding thoughts as possible explanations for what was going on around him/her.

***

Xander/ Aphrodesia /Cassandra reflexively pulled his/her sword as he/she discovered him/herself standing in the midst of chaos, his/her millennia of experience allowing him/her to instantly adapt to the fact that he/she was in the midst of what appeared to be some type of demonic infestation.

The fact that he/she could sense he/she was in the vicinity of a Hellmouth did absolutely nothing to reassure him/her that something horrendous wasn't about to happen.

Hearing the terrified screams of children, he/she hurried out of the porch he/she had found him/herself standing in, alert for any sign of what could be the source of the current problems.

// Take care of the innocents first, // he/she prioritized what needed to be done. // Then find our who or what is responsible and how to reverse what's been done. Then I can kill them. //

***

Xander/Jonathan/Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott stared in disbelief as he found himself standing in the middle of some kind of old-fashioned neighborhood like he'd seen on some of the colony worlds, or possibly in one of the old history holos they'd shown back when he was in class at the Academy.

One minute he was examining plans for the latest proposed modifications for warp drive engines, the next he was here, wherever here was, in the midst of a crowd of terrified children.

Drawing his phaser, he stunned something that looked as though it might be some distant cousin of a Winathian Tree Ape as it chased a group of children, then began calling out commands to the children, trying to form some semblance of order, while looking around for any other potential threats.

***

Xander/Andrew/Doug Ramsey looked around and wondered what just happened. A moment ago, he and the rest of the gang had been training in the Danger Room, focusing on working together as a team, just as Scott had instructed, and now he was suddenly alone in the middle of what looked to some kind of reenactment of the Inferno incident, to judge by the presence of what looked to be various mini-demons running wild through the streets. Maybe this was just some kind of exercise to see how they each reacted to an unexpected alteration of the environment. On the other hand, considering the types of things that happened to the X-Men on a fairly consistent basis, maybe it wasn't an exercise. If he treated everything that was happening as though it were real, he couldn't go wrong, though.

When there was no response to his requests for either direction or assistance over his transceiver, he shrugged and began trying to figure out the best option to follow. His uniform would provide him a modicum of protection from any possible attacks from the mini-demons, and the basic combat training Scott insisted they all take would let him defend himself against most human adversaries.

All of the above had passed through his mind in the first five seconds after finding himself here, wherever that may be. What he needed to do next was help the children running around here find someplace safe to stay. Then he could see about figuring out where, and possibly when, he was.

***

Xander/Larry/Lord Peter Blood froze for an instant as the world abruptly reformed itself around him. He stared in amazement to find himself no longer on the beach, staring down at Lavasseur's body, but instead in the middle of some sort of English settlement, to judge by the language of the screams of the children running by him in fear and terror. His eyes widened in further amazement upon noticing that the injuries he'd suffered during his duel were now completely healed! Witchcraft! There could be no possible doubt about it!

His attention was distracted from his ruminations by the terrified screams of the children running past him, seeking to escape some scaled demon that was roaring as it chased them.

Leaping in front of the monster, he swung his cutlass up into a guard position as he interposed himself between it and the children.

"Begone, demon!" he warned it as it swung an arm up to attack. "No innocents will be harmed by you while I can stand! Flee if you wish to survive the night!"

***

Xander/Tucker/Hank McCoy shook his head as he looked around him. Only a scant moment ago, he had been seated in his lab, contemplating the implications inherent in the latest MRI scans he had performed on his fellow Avenger, Simon Williams. Now, he found himself in the midst of a panicked crowd of children threatened by possibly myriad mystical minions of a malicious and malignant menace.

// Enough with the alliteration, McCoy, // he thought to himself reprovingly as he bounded forward to grab a terrified child and leap with her out of the path of an SUV that had swerved to avoid a group of children who had run in front of him while fleeing a group of creatures that bore a disturbingly strong resemblance to the beings called Ewoks that had been featured in George Lucas' second Star Wars film.

// I do so hope this is not an indication that S'ym and his minions are attempting yet another incursion against this plane of existence, // he thought before turning his attention to calming the young girl he'd rescued, together with her companions.

***

Xander/Percy/Joe Hallenbeck shook his head and wondered if he was awakening from the mother of all benders. He didn't recognize the neighborhood he found himself in and sure as hell didn't remember driving out here.

He was staring around, trying to figure out just what the hell was going on when he saw what looked like a blue-furred gorilla wearing a pair of swim trunks leap from the middle of a yard halfway down the block into the street, grab hold of a little girl and then jump away again to the sidewalk, a fraction of a second before she would have been hit by a wildly swerving SUV.

Stunned by what he'd just seen, he watched as the blue gorilla landed in the front yard two houses down, let go of the little girl and then crouched down so that he wasn't towering over her as he apparently tried to calm her down.

***

Xander/Scott/Batman looked around, maintaining the impassive expression on his face even he tried to figure out exactly what had happened to him. Only an instant ago, he had been examining the scene of the Riddler's latest crime; now, he found himself standing in the midst of a group of elementary school children, who were all looking up at him with worry and concern on their faces.

"What's going on, Mr. Batman?" a little boy who couldn't have been more than nine asked him, before he could slip off and blend into the shadows, the child then glancing around at the other groups of children who seemed to be fighting off attacks by various small humanoid creatures.

// Either aliens or demons, // he decided as he watched the unmistakably non-human gait of some of the creatures as they approached the other groups.

"We appear to be under attack of some kind," he stated quietly, toning the harshness in his voice down so as to not alarm the children any more than they already were.

Picking out the child who looked to be the oldest in the group, a girl who looked to be about ten, he ordered her, "Take the other children and try to get into that house," as he pointed to the house bordering the yard they stood in. "Once you're inside, don't come out until I come back for you. Understand?"

Seeing the girl hesitantly nod her head in agreement, he waited only long enough to make sure the other children were following before he turned and headed over to the areas where it appeared the most disruption was occurring.

***

Xander/Oz/Qui-Gon Jinn winced as the *wrongness* of the area surrounding him impacted on his senses.

While the sensation wasn't exactly the same as those areas in which the Dark Side had taken over and permeated the environment around them so thoroughly, it was still quite disturbing nonetheless. It felt as though the very fabric of reality somewhere nearby had been ripped and torn, warped in ways it had never been intended to assume.

Drawing his light saber, he went forth to determine exactly what was wrong.

***

Xander/Harmony/Emma Frost dropped to his/her knees at the shock he/she encountered at the impact of so many minds screaming in protest at their sudden, involuntary displacement from control of their bodies.

// What the hell is going on here? What was that? // Xander-Harmony-Emma thought as he/she felt the echo of the other minds' screaming ring through his/her mind.

The mind of one of the most powerful telepaths in her native universe focused his/her concentration and began searching for indications of what might have just happened and, after a bare moment's search, was rewarded by the discovery of a very large number of minds who had apparently been ousted from control of their own bodies.

Including thirteen other Xander Harrises.

And the true owners of the bodies he was currently occupying.

~~~

And in an example of what Chaos truly meant, an event not even Janus could possibly have foreseen took place.

A far distant sector of the multiversal matrix
A faction of an instant after Janus' spell began


The entity who identified himself as Bat-Mite (as a minor tribute to the mortal who had earned both his respect and admiration for his focus and dedication to his avocation) paused in his enthusiastic viewing of his hero as he sensed the questing presence of a foreign energy tendril as it shimmered into existence not far distant from where the Dark Knight Detective was currently examining a crime scene.

A quick examination of the probe verified that it held no malign intentions towards the shadowy vigilante but had, instead, apparently arrived for the sole purpose of analyzing the dark champion in order to duplicate every aspect of the man in question.

His curiosity sparked by questions regarding the possible purposes of the probe, Bat-Mite traced the tendril's path back across the vast inter-planar distances separating himself and the probe's origin, to find a universe that appeared to lack any sign of the type of champion with which he was familiar!

True, some champions did exist there, but they kept to themselves in the shadows and just as often as not were forced by outside forces to acknowledge their Calling. From his brief examination, it appeared that there were very few of them who actually stepped forward of their own accord to protect their fellow men from the creatures hiding in the darkness that sought to prey on the weak and vulnerable.

It took only a moment's consideration for him to realize that this universe needed someone like his hero to protect it, to be an example to others, to show everyone that even a mere human could stand up and battle successfully against overwhelming forces and win!

Unfortunately, he could tell by the amount of energy present that this template of his hero that was being forged would be of limited duration, and would most likely expire in less than twelve hours and that would do the recipient no good whatsoever!

Accordingly, he reached out and infused the probe with the slightest bit of his own power, thereby ensuring that whoever it was that was duplicating the Batman would retain the template of his hero for the rest of their life.

~~~

Even with the advantage of telepathy and the virtually instantaneous communication it allowed, it took nearly a full minute of real-world time for all fifteen people involved to come to a consensus regarding what to do and how best to address the current situation in which they found themselves.

It took only the briefest instants of consideration to recognize that only those people who had been wearing one of Xander's shirts had been affected in such a manner as to be sharing their consciousness with his, although that did nothing to explain why they had influenced at all, or why they and the other holiday revelers had been transformed at all.

Considering the concentration of brain power gathered together by whatever it was that had initiated this situation, and the vast catalogue of experience encompassed by both the real people and the apparently-up-to-this-point-in-time fictional characters they had been merged with, it took surprisingly little time for the grouped minds to decide that they were most likely under some sort of spell and, after a review of all the known facts and all relevant memories regarding the costumes the Sunnydalers had chosen to wear and where they had obtained them, that the most prudent course of action would be for several members of the group to visit the costume shop and interview the owner.

Dividing themselves up into what they determined to be the most optimum pairings of combat and non-combat experience (Buffy-Jonathan, Willow-Tucker, Aphrodesia-Andrew, Larry-Cordy, Percy-Aura, Scott-Harmony and Oz-Amy), they all agreed that Buffy, Jonathan, Scott and Harmony would seek out Ethan at his shop while the others fanned out in an effort to protect the innocent and helpless and minimize the amount of damage inflicted on the town by whatever was responsible for this situation.

~~~

Sunnydale High School
October 31, 1997
8:55 PM

Had he ever been questioned, Rupert Giles would have stated quite confidently that he was basically inured to shock, after considering the past year and a half that he had spent living here, on the outskirts of the Mouth of Hell, and the number of years he had spent both training as a Watcher and, before that, dabbling in the Dark Arts.

Accordingly, he was only mildly surprised when he exited his office and found not only his Slayer and the two teenagers who had insisted upon assisting her in her battles over the course of the past year, but a dozen other adolescents as well, the newcomers ranging from members of the various school sports teams to those who would normally be identified by the less polite school students as 'nerds.'

And his surprise and dismay increased only slightly when his Slayer informed him of the events that had transpired earlier in the evening and the fact that all of the teenagers present had been affected by Ethan's spell, effectively merging them with both their costumed personas and the youth who had resuscitated his Slayer the previous May.

But it was the final announcement he'd heard that had moved him from surprise to outright astonishment and disbelief: that all of those present had, for some still undetermined reason, each retained the memories, skills and abilities they had gained from the merger.

And also that all fifteen of the teens still maintained some low-level mental link to each other.

And that Xander Harris seemed to be able to manifest all of the others' skills and abilities.

~~~

Something the Sunnydalers didn't realize, and that Bat-Mite had never stopped to consider in his enthusiasm to provide this other universe with a copy of his champion, was that a spell that affected *one* Xander Harris, would affect *all* Xander Harrises.

No matter how many there might be.

E Pluribus Unum and all that...


To Be Continued

The End

You have reached the end of "E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, One)". This story is complete.

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