Disclaimer: They're not mine. I'm not making any money off this. (Would that I could!) The Buffy characters belong to Crack-Head Joss. James Joyson Whaler belongs to L. E. Modesitt and TOR Books, Inc.
Time Frame: Canon for first season, then becomes AU at second season episode 6, "Halloween."
Character Bashing: None. Really. Maybe later if you're good...
Feedback: Of course! Flames, however, will either be ignored or to used to toast marshmallows
Author's Notes: As always, many thanks to Lori Bush, Tim Joy, Drake the Archer and Bill Haden for beta-ing this.
October 30, 1997
The store was packed to capacity with teenagers, elementary school children and their harried mothers all examining the store's contents for the perfect costume to be worn the following night, all jostling for what most of them intended to be the absolute best costume anyone could possess.
Xander Harris, however, was just looking for the cheapest costume he could get away with and still satisfy Principal Troll's, that is, Principal Snyder's, edict regarding costumes to be worn the next evening while escorting the elementary school children on their candy-procurement rounds.
"Appropriate role models, huh? Just what does he mean by that?" he muttered to himself as Buffy and Willow ooo-ed and ah-ed over an elegant eighteenth century gown that had caught the Slayer's eye. That edict probably ruled out the Wolverine or Punisher costumes over in the comic book section, the only ones left that he'd be caught dead in. And Jonathan's walking out with the last decent Old West outfit, 'Wild Bill' Hickok, if he was any judge, brought his search of that section to an end as well. After a brief confab with a truly excited Dawn over her hard-won 'Huntress' costume, he resumed his hunt for something he could get past the dreaded micro-principal.
As his own eyes roamed across the innumerable costumes on display, his attention was caught by a set of forest-green fatigues on display on one of the shelves. Actually, it was the pin, a gold triangle within a green circle, on the uniform blouse that first caught his notice.
"No way!" he exclaimed to himself as recognition caused a wide smile to cross his face. "It can't be!"
An immediate, closer examination to verify his initial suspicion made the grin permanent, and he quickly scooped up the outfit and made his way to the register, pausing only to grab two futuristic-looking pistols from the weapons display and then at the theatrical supplies to pick up some silver hair dye and bronze make-up.
"This is definitely gonna be the coolest Halloween ever," he predicted confidently as he headed towards the proprietor who was watching him approach with a smug, almost condescending smirk on his face.
"Harris! I distinctly remember saying costumes had to be appropriate role models," Snyder snarled at the silver-haired, forest-green uniformed youth standing in his schoolyard.
"Ah, Principal Snyder, sir," Xander smiled widely at the approaching being, who he believed to be the only existing human-hobgoblin hybrid currently in existence. "This is an appropriate selection, sir. The character I've chosen was featured in a series of novels and was a respected and valued professor at an institute of higher learning."
Seeing the suspicious look the Troll was giving their friend, Buffy and Willow surreptitiously moved closer to eavesdrop on their conversation, since he had smilingly refused to elaborate on his selection when they had attempted to quiz him earlier that afternoon.
"Sir, my character was a veritable renaissance man, who taught classes in piloting, navigation, practical and theoretical electronics, unarmed combat, political science, military operations, ecological science, biology, botany, chemistry and environmental science," Xander elaborated.
"In fact, I brought one of the novels with me to show you, sir," the currently silver-haired youth noted, as he held out a paperback and pointed to certain specific passages highlighted in yellow.
The Troll read the indicated paragraphs, gave Xander a narrow-eyed scowl and stalked off, muttering under his breath, to harass other, less wary students.
Before either of the girls, dumbfounded by the principal/tyrant's reaction, could open their mouth to quiz him regarding the purported identity of his costume, Xander turned to address his assigned group of Trick-or-Treaters and immediately began his briefing.
"All right, troops, listen up! We're preparing to begin exploratory operations in potentially hostile territory, so in order to ensure maximum effectiveness, you need to keep in mind the following key points of information:
"With regards to sleazing extra candy, tears are key. Tears will normally get you the double-bagger. You can also try the old 'you missed me' routine, but it's risky. Only go there for chocolate. Understood?"
The enthusiastic nods of the respectful and appreciative children for the guy who just made a principle back off made him smile, and he quickly barked, "Okay, then! Form up in skirmish lines and let's move out!"
Shaking his head to clear the sudden disorientation that had abruptly hit him, he glanced around in surprise and suspicion at the unfamiliar surroundings he found himself in.
The stench of what smelled like internal combustion byproducts filled the air and he coughed at the unexpected stink, even as he reflexively drew his stunner. In the distance, he could women screaming and what sounded like shouting in some language he didn't recognize.
"Xander? Xander! Xander, it's me, Willow!" he heard someone calling from behind him.
Spinning to confront the newcomer, he found himself facing an attractive, adolescent redhead in a rather revealing outfit.
"I'm sorry, miss, but my name isn't Xander and I don't know any Willows," he smiled and informed her pleasantly enough, while examining the area around them for any potential threats.
"Allow me to introduce myself," he said. "My name is Professor James Joyson Whaler.
"But you can call me Jimjoy."
"Xander, stop goofing around! This is serious!" the redhead snapped as she reflexively tried to swat his shoulder and gasped, wide-eyed with surprise, as her hand passed harmlessly through him.
"All right, what are you? A holographic projection?" Jimjoy demanded, his eyes narrowing even as he immediately began checking the area around them for the 3-D projector. "Who are you? Why did you bring me here?"
"Ohmigod! You're not Xander! You really are him!" Willow gasped as she stared, bug-eyed, at the man in front of her as recognition of the name he'd used finally kicked in, even as a second pistol seemed to materialize in the silver-haired man's off-hand as he spoke to her. "You're Jimjoy Wright!"
"Where'd you hear that name?!" The question was asked in a low and deadly voice, almost a snarl, and Willow recoiled instinctively at the menace implicit in the tone, her face whitening to a deathly pallor as though she were in imminent danger.
"I know this is gonna sound crazy and be hard to believe Mister Wright sir so please don't get mad at me but something must have happened to all of us to make us turn into our Halloween costumes 'cause I was dressed as a ghost and now I am one and you're not really who you think you are 'cause you're really my best friend Xander Harris but you dressed up as a character from one of your favorite science fiction novels and now you think you are him and I think all the kids must have got turned into their costumes too which would explain all the little monsters running around here chasing people and attacking each other and -"
"Hold up for a moment!"
The order brought the apparently panic-stricken non-stop babbling by the holographic image of the young woman to an abrupt halt, leaving her staring at him with a wide-eyed expression of fear and trepidation that made him cringe inwardly for having caused.
"What you're saying appears to be a bit - far-fetched, miss," he said politely, even as he kept track of the various - beings - that appeared to running loose and causing havoc further along the street they were on.
Now that he took a moment to examine them more closely, however, he realized that the majority of the creatures appeared to be nonhuman, and that none of them corresponded to any of the extra-solar species that had been catalogued in any of the Institute's files. Which meant that none of them were known to either the Empire or the Institute.
Which, on the surface, seemed to be utterly impossible, since everything of any major import known to human civilization had been catalogued by at least one, if not both, of the groups.
The vast majority of the creatures running around were also much smaller than a normal-sized human - they were all, in fact, approximately the size of children. Another piece of information that seemed to jibe with the story the hologram-girl had begun to tell him.
"Uhm, excuse me, Mr. Wright?" the redhead ventured after a moment, very hesitantly.
"Jimjoy," he automatically corrected.
"Okay, uhm, Mr., uh, Mr. Jimjoy," she acquiesced. "If what I think happened actually did happen, then one of our friends might be in a whole lot of danger, because if she changed into her costume, too, then she won't be able to defend herself."
"Uhm, because she dressed as an eighteenth century noblewoman, and all most of them could do is sew and run the household and give orders. They had no idea how to protect themselves, except to call for help and wait for someone to come to their rescue," the hologram - or maybe she really was a girl - told him.
Any further explanation or discussion was interrupted by a loud scream coming from a short distance further down the street, and the redhead - Willow - paled even more when she heard it.
"Ohmigod, that's Buffy screaming!" she exclaimed, and immediately began running towards the source of the disturbance.
"Come on! We have to help her!" she called back over her shoulder at him as she ran pell-mell through a waist-high thicket, apparently only noticing what she'd done after the fact.
"This stuff happens to me WAY too often," he heard the redhead mutter to herself.
Shrugging his shoulders in bemused concession, Jimjoy followed her, wondering just exactly what it was he might have gotten himself mixed up in.
The following hours and days proved to be quite interesting to everyone involved.
That is, if you believed in the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."
In the course of rescuing Buffy from the various perils the evening held for both the unwary and the stupid, Jimjoy verified the accuracy of the young redhead's guess that a wide variety of costumed celebrants had been transformed into their costumes while also managing, along the way, to not only lay waste to both large sections of the town's abandoned warehouse district and a significant portion of its demonic population, but to instill an overwhelming and terrified respect for the silver-haired youth among the survivors.
After an extensive interrogation of both Willow and the apparently unaffected cat-suited Cordelia Chase regarding the source of their costumes, Jimjoy had hypothesized that the shop providing them their outfits was quite possibly involved in the various involuntary transformations, and had then gone off to investigate his suspicions.
The subsequent trail of destruction that had later ensued had been only partially explained by Xander's laconic justification, "Hey, it's not my fault they all pissed him off."
The fact that Jimjoy had also found it necessary to use his stunner on the semi-hysterical and extremely loud and demanding eighteenth century noblewoman in order to leave to investigate the cause of the night's - difficulties - was the primary reason that the Slayer was less than completely delighted to see him when she finally awoke from her externally induced slumber and met him at the library the following morning.
The fact Xander had responded reflexively and had not only taken her down, but had nearly dislocated her shoulder when she had attempted to swat him upon first seeing him in the library was a strong secondary reason for her displeasure. He later learned that it was the second time it had happened to the disgruntled blonde that day, the first being when she had caught the now 'Meta' Dawn unaware and had landed on her ass.
In addition to the aftermath of the preceding night's events, the revelation that both Buffy and Xander had retained all of their memories from their possessions the previous night had left the thunderstruck Watcher with more questions to research than he had originally possessed after their initial get-together.
And on the personal front, Buffy's retention of a number of her Renaissance Era memories, which involved having personally seen some of the havoc and depredations perpetrated by the vampiric group, the Scourge of Europe, had been the most significant motivating factor in the sudden cooling of her earlier schoolgirl romantic fantasies involving Angel.
The subsequent appearance of her old grade school crush, Billy Fordham, his attempt to betray her to Angel's vampiric grandchild, Spike, and his subsequent death at the vampire's hands had then left her crying and leaning upon the shoulder of her closest female friend while bewailing her dreadful luck when it came to romantic relationships.
So the fact that the pair's friendship eventually blossomed into something more came as no surprise to anyone involved in the Slaying, except for possibly the two of them.
"So, Xand, what's new and exciting in the life of Sunnydale's first and foremost militant, yet at the same time militantly pacifistic, ecologist? Still running from Dawn?" Willow asked with a wicked smile as she opened her locker to get her book for her next class.
Dawn had become a lot more aggressive toward her Xander-crush since Halloween, to the point of clearly stating her intentions for the man in question, and pointedly asking Joyce her opinion about china patterns. The memory of Xander running out the door in blind panic was one she'd treasure for the rest of her life.
"Not a whole lot at the moment, Will. Thankfully, Joyce laid down the law where class-skipping was involved, so I'm safe for the moment," the now-again dark-haired youth replied as he gave his childhood friend a sidelong look. "You and Buffy start dating yet?"
The surprised and shocked expression and slight pallor his inquiry produced verified the suspicions he had been harboring for a while now, and he smiled as the redhead's eyes widened to the size of headlights and her mouth began moving but no sound emerged as she tried to stammer out an answer to his question.
"Relax, Will," he told her as he slipped his arm around her shoulders in a reassuring hug. "I'm not sure about anyone else figuring it out, but it's been evident to me, at least, that there's something going on between the two of you for a while now. Her breaking up with Angel just cleared the way for whatever it is you guys have got going to finally happen, that's all."
"But - but - but, Xander! There isn't anything going on between us," the redhead tried to reject his assertion as she shook her head in a vigorous denial.
"Will, this is me you're talking to," Xander told her quietly as he began guiding her down the crowded corridor.
"We've known each other since kindergarten, remember? I can always tell when you're not telling the truth. In fact, if I recall correctly - which I'm sure I do - I was the one who had to teach you how to lie properly, you were so bad at it!" he reminded her with a grin.
"But, Xand, Buffy's a girl! And so am I," Willow pointed out even as she leaned deeper into his hug.
"So? What's plumbing got to do with it?" he replied. "It's more about who the person you care about is, right?" he asked her.
"Although," he added a moment later, as he let a glazed look slide across his face as though he was lost in thought, "now that you mention that..."
"XANDER!" Willow immediately exclaimed, a wide-eyed look of scandalized outrage and indignation on her face as the implications of his words sunk in.
"You pig!" she yelled at him, as she pulled away and smacked him on the shoulder as he dissolved into laughter. "You - you - you GUY, you!" she declared, as though pronouncing her judgment on him.
"What'd he do this time, Wills?" Buffy asked with casual curiosity as she walked up and joined her two friends, ignoring the crowds of fellow students as they smirked and nonchalantly walked around the still laughing youth who was now lying in the middle of the corridor, holding his stomach.
"He said - he was - I just - he's such a guy!" the still outraged and now semi-embarrassed redhead announced as her cheeks burned with a mixture of ire and discomfort at the sudden and unexpected appearance of the subject of her and Xander's discussion.
"Oh. Okay," the Slayer shrugged her uncomprehending agreement as she reached down and pulled the taller brunet to his feet.
"He usually is, though, isn't he?" she asked as the three of them began heading down the hall to their next class.
"And I always will be," Xander vowed resolutely, starting to laugh again as Willow gave him another glare and a smack on the shoulder as she muttered, "Pig," under her breath.
Buffy merely shrugged as she looked at the two, smiled and accompanied them down the hall.
"Giles, I need your signature on these incorporation papers," Xander casually announced as he walked in and dropped a ream of papers on the Englishman's desk. "You're going to be the company president of Ecolitan Enterprises Unlimited, Inc. and I'll be the C.E.O."
"First, Xander, tell me why on earth would I want to sign any type of incorporation papers for you, and second, what sort of company is it that you're creating that would require this type of paperwork?" the Watcher demanded, looking at the youth with a combination of surprise and mild indignation.
"Well, your first answer is because Ms. Calendar suggested it as the company president in charge of our computer operations, and the second answer is that it's mainly for tax purposes and to act as a screen for some of the less palatable aspects of the work we're going to be doing and the people we're going to be hiring," Xander smiled as he flopped down in the chair opposite the desk.
"You see, I've decided that if I'm ever hoping to succeed in establishing a more ecologically aware society, then we need to include all of the vectors comprising the planetary matrix, and not ignore some of the equally important aspects merely because they aren't acknowledged by human society," he stated firmly
"After all, it's not like there are a lot of companies out there that are willing to employ Belgari demons to act as incubators in order to provide pathogens to pharmaceutical labs for the development of vaccines, or are providing those labs with Fyarl demon mucus in order to research possible applications in the treatment of human neurological disorders, or sponsoring investigation of Granoch demon toxins as a potential base for anti-carcinogenic drugs," he commented.
"I've also gotten a small research grant from the California Forestry Department to survey the local forests and identify areas containing endangered species, which will be a lot easier to do using the two Sasquatch I've hired through some of my contacts down at Wiley's bar," he informed their ostensible mentor.
"And we've initiated negotiations with several other state governments and other branches of the federal government, along with several civilian ecological groups, for additional projects along those lines," he noted offhandedly.
"I've also put out some feelers to several of the petroleum refineries about contracting out the subsurface maintenance of their off-shore drilling platforms, after a Shuggoth and a couple Orc'Aash'Niis approached me about jobs when they heard I hired the Sasquatch, but that's still very tentative and up in the air," he continued.
"Oh, and I'm also planning on hiring Wills as our chief researcher, Joyce for Public Relations and Buffy's going to be in charge of our security operations," he added with a grin at the Watcher's thunderstruck expression upon hearing his revelations.
"But - You - I don't believe - How on earth - " Giles couldn't mange a coherent sentence, there were so many conflicting thoughts and questions pouring through his mind.
"Xander, would you have any idea why, when me and Dawn were on patrol last night, Angel met us and said that a group of vampires had asked him about getting in touch with you, 'cause they were hoping you'd be interested in contracting them to act as consultants to some of the hospitals that are developing synthetic blood substitutes?" Buffy asked, a bewildered, but still very pretty, frown on her face as she walked in through the double doors.
Buffy's question was punctuated by the thud of Giles' body hitting the floor as he toppled backwards out of his chair due to the fainting spell.
For those of you who don't recognize the cross, the character is Ecolitan Professor James Joyson Whaler, leader and faculty member of the Ecolitan Institute and former Imperial Special Operative Jimjoy Wright, from "The Ecologic Secession," part of the Ecolitan Trilogy, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.