Disclaimer: Joss and co. own all things Buffy, no copyright infringement is intended so please don’t sue. I don’t have any money anyway.
Summary: In answer to the Xander Zone’s Halloween challenge, what if Xander hadn’t dressed as the solider on Halloween? What if he was dressed as the world’s greatest detective? (and no, I don’t mean Batman)
Dedication: To Helen and Nikki, for whom I do everything. And Jordan and Jessica, my angels. May they rest in peace.
Xander was browsing through Ethan’s Costume Shop, trying to figure out what he was going to do. There were only a few days of the year when he was particularly reminded of the fact that he was different than almost everyone else, that he was poor. Halloween was one of those days. But he had managed to pull it off in the past and he’d do it again. He was the two-dollar costume king after all. He had an old set of army fatigues at home that he got from an army surplus store. All he needed was a toy gun or something and presto, instant costume. But looking at the variety of fantastic get-ups in this place, he didn’t mind admitting to himself that he was a tad jealous.
One costume in particular grabbed Xander’s attention. It stuck out among the usual fare of movie monsters and comic book superheroes. The mannequin wore a 19th Century suit, topped off with a tweed cape and a deerstalker hat. Xander instantly recognized it of course, he had always been a favorite character of his. Xander may not have been one for great literature, preferring comic books mostly, but he always had a passion for great mysteries. And there was no literary detective greater than that of the man whom this costume represented.
Xander had always admired his amazing analytical mind, and the detached coldness he possessed as he went about his job. Both qualities that he did not have himself. Xander’s emotions always ran high when things got hairy. Fear, anger, concern. Sometimes he wished that he could just take a step back, push his feelings aside and look at a problem logically.
“Ah, I see you have good taste.” Xander turned at the sound of the voice behind him and saw an older gentleman offering him a friendly smile. “You’re the first person I’ve seen stop and look at this costume all day. I’d wager most of these children don’t even know who he is.”
“I know who he is,” Xander said.
“I can see that. Would you like to try it on?”
“Oh, no. I was just looking, I can’t afford it.”
“Nonsense. You don’t even know how much it costs.”
“Yeah, but I know how much I have. Trust me.”
“I tell you what. It would be a real shame if I didn’t sell this costume today. And since you are the only person who has taken an interest in it, I’ll make you a deal. You can have it, for however much money you have in your pocket right now.”
“What? No, I couldn’t, that wouldn’t be fair. You don’t even know how much I have.”
“Please, I insist.” Ethan took the hat from the mannequin and placed it on Xander’s head. “A perfect fit. You see, this was meant to be. Wait here a moment, there is another part of the costume in the back.”
Ethan disappeared for a moment into the back of the shop, leaving Xander looking at the costume and wondering exactly when his luck had turned around. Ethan emerged a moment later carrying some kind of box. He smiled at Xander again and opened it, holding it up so Xander could see the contents.
Xander’s eyes went wide. Inside the box, encased in foam cut-outs matching the shape of each object, sat a curved wooden pipe and a magnifying glass. These were not cheap replica props you’d find in most costume shops, these were the real things. Xander picked up the pipe and examined it. It was beautifully carved. He wanted to object again, but he was too stunned to speak.
“The costume wouldn’t be complete without these, now would it. Now there’s just the matter of payment, and I’ll box this up for you.”
Xander reached into his pocket and pulled out two wrinkled one-dollar bills. He expected Ethan to be upset, but the man just smiled again and accepted the money. That’s when Xander’s Scooby sense really started going off. There was definitely something wrong here. People don’t just hand over expensive clothes and accessories for two dollars and smile about it. But he decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Whatever the deal was, it couldn’t be Hellmouthy. What kind of evil works its plan by giving away Halloween costumes?
What Xander didn’t notice as he looked at the pipe, were three very small letters carved on the inside of the lip. The initials ‘ACD’.
He was confused, but not as much as one would think given his situation. He had suddenly found himself in a very strange place, filled with very strange creatures. Creatures that did not appear to be human. People were running and screaming through the streets. It was chaos. He was just trying to take it all in, to understand what was happening around him. Which is probably why he didn’t realize the redhead was talking to him until she was standing directly in front of him.
“I’m sorry Miss, but you must have me confused with someone else. The name is Holmes, Sherlock Holmes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must discover what is happening here.”
“Wait!” Willow tried to block his path again, but the detective passed right through her as if she wasn’t even there. He whirled around and looked at Willow in fascination.
“Intriguing,” he said as he raised his magnifying glass. He stepped closer and tentatively reached up to touch her shoulder. His hand passed through it. He examined the spot where his hand disappeared into Willow though the magnifying glass.
“Xan…Sherlock, listen to me. You’re not who you think you are. I was dressed as a ghost for Halloween and now I am a ghost. You were dressed as Sherlock Holmes and now…” She trailed off as she looked down awkwardly at where Xander was still studying her non-corporeal form. “You are Sherlock Holmes.”
Xander stood up straight again and looked at Willow. He took a puff from his pipe as he seemed to consider what she had said. “Intriguing,” he said again.
“You mean you believe me?”
“I do not have enough facts to support a conclusion at this time, but I find your theory very…interesting. Tell me, what is this place?”
“Sunnydale, California,” Willow answered. “The United States. The year is…1998.”
Xander seemed surprised at that. He puffed on his pipe a moment longer, thinking. “Assuming you are correct, these creatures…”
“Are children,” Willow finished. “Who have been turned into monsters. We have to figure out how to reverse the spell.”
Xander nodded. “Thank you Miss, you have been a great help to me.” He then turned and started to walk away.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“As I said, I do not have enough facts. I seek to remedy that situation.”
“But you don’t know what’s out there.”
“Precisely why I must go.”
“Wait! I can help you, I know more about this place than you do. But you have to come with me. We have a friend, Giles, he may be able to figure out what’s happening.”
Xander seemed to consider it a moment before nodded and walking back toward Willow. “Lay on, my dear. The game is afoot.”
Giles was sitting at the circulation desk reading when the library doors opened and Xander walked in. There was something different about the young man’s stride Giles realized. It was crisp, determined, as opposed to the casual way he normally walked.
“Mr. Giles I presume,” he said as he stepped up to the counter, removing the pipe from his mouth and extending his hand. “Holmes, Sherlock Holmes.”
“Xander, I’m quite busy right now. I don’t have time for games.”
“I assure you Sir, this is no game.”
Giles opened his mouth to speak again, but he was interrupted by Willow, who passed through the wall directly in front of him. “Giles!” she called out.
The Watcher nearly fell out of his chair. “What the…”
“We’ve got a problem!”
“I can see that,” Giles said dryly as he readjusted himself in his chair.
“Everyone has turned into their Halloween costumes! The streets are chaos! I was dressed as a ghost, and now I am a ghost. And Xander thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes.”
“Alright, calm down. Where’s Buffy?”
“I don’t know. When I came to, she was gone. She’s probably freaking out right now, she was dressed as a 17th Century noblewoman.”
Giles took his glasses off and rubbed his face. “Bloody perfect,” he muttered to himself.
“Well it’s not like we knew anything was going to happen, you told us that Evil takes the night off on Halloween.”
“It does. Which means that this spell was probably cast by a human.”
“This is a very powerful spell. If a human cast it, they’d need some kind of talisman or icon for a focus. I don’t understand, what kind of person would want to do this?” Willow asked.
Unnoticed by both of them, Xander was observing the conversation very carefully.
“I don’t know,” Giles said. “But I mean to find out. I’ll stay here and begin researching what kind of spell could do this, you and Xander go find Buffy. She’s vulnerable, some demon or vampire might get the idea to take advantage of this situation.”
“Right,” Willow said. “Xander, we’ll…Xander?”
Giles and Willow looked around the library. Xander was gone.
Holmes was back on the street moments after slipping out of the library. His mind was racing. He didn’t know much about the place and time that he now found himself in. He didn’t know much about magic, or monsters. But if the information he had been given was true, and a human had perpetuated this act, he would discover the culprit. If there was one thing he was intimately familiar with, it was the human mind.
He passed a store window as he walked down the sidewalk and caught sight of his reflection out of the corner of his eye. He stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned to face the window. He stepped closer, his hand coming up to touch the face that he was looking at. A face that was not his own. His normally thin, hawk-like nose was absent, replaced by a fuller one. The hair was darker, the eyes were darker. But most strikingly, the face that greeted him in his reflection was much younger than his own. It was the face of a boy.
“Astounding,” he muttered, watching as the lips of this strange face formed the word right along with him. It was another piece of the puzzle falling into place. The only explanation he had seemed outlandish, and yet it must be true. Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. He was not Sherlock Holmes. He, along with many of the people of this town, was under some sort of magic spell.
But the puzzle wasn’t complete yet, he needed more pieces. And since this boy was no doubt a part of it, his own person seemed a good place to start looking for clues. In his right pocket he found a strange looking set of keys, and a package of something called ‘Bubble Yum’. In his back pocket he found a wallet, with nothing inside but a student ID card. The face was the same as the one in the store window, and the name was Xander Harris. That was the name that the young woman had called him, Xander. He reached into his left pocket and pulled out a large wooden cross, the bottom sharpened to a point. He stared at it for a moment as the implications of what the object meant began to sink in.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out one final object, a crumpled piece of paper. He unfolded it and read what was printed on it. “Receipt of purchase, Ethan’s Costume Shop,” he muttered to himself.
Suddenly, a woman’s scream pierced the night. Holmes stuffed the receipt back into his pocket and started running toward the sound of the commotion, clutching the cross tightly in his hand.
Sherlock rounded the street corner and was greeted by a frightening sight. It was a young woman, in a long and flowing ball gown being menaced by two rather rough looking men. One of them looked to be a pirate. And the other had a deformed face, with piercing yellow eyes and and mouth full of sharp teeth. They were both grinning as the woman shrieked in terror. Holmes didn’t know what he was going to do, but he knew he had to act. And in a move that was very much against his usual analytical way of looking at things, he rushed headlong into the fray without a second thought.
He ran shoulder first into the pirate, sending him tumbling to the ground. He then turned his attention to the more dangerous of the two, instinctively raising his cross and thrusting it in the creature’s face. The vampire took a step back and growled. The young lady the demon had been planning on making a meal out of ducked behind Holmes, clinging to him like a human life preserver. “Get back!” Sherlock shouted.
The vampire seemed to think for a moment before turning and taking off into the night. There were plenty of far easier meals out tonight, no sense in risking his unlife.
Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief for a moment until he heard the young woman scream again, and felt a pair of arms wrap around him from behind. In all the excitement he had nearly forgotten about the pirate. Again, Holmes didn’t think, he just reacted. Bringing his head down and then rocketing it back as hard as he could, he felt the back of his skull connect with what he assumed was the pirate’s nose. A howl of pain confirmed this as his grip released. Holmes spun around and delivered a swift right hook, catching the pirate just under the chin and sending him to the ground. This time, he had a feeling that the man wouldn’t be getting up any time soon. Holmes stood over the man, looking down at his own fists and at what he had done. It was so unlike him to act so crudely, and yet a part of him felt like it had come naturally. “That was oddly satisfying,” he mumbled to himself.
“Oh, thank you so very much kind Sir!” the young woman cried, throwing her arms around Sherlock and burying her face in his chest. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come along, those two ruffians were most unsavory.”
“I’m just happy I could help, Miss...” Holmes said.
“Lady Elisabeth Summerland,” the young lady replied with a curtsy. “Pleased to meet you, kind Sir.”
“The pleasure is mine, my lady. My name is Holmes, Sherlock Holmes,” he responded, replacing the wooden cross he held into his pants pocket. “This is a very dangerous night for a lady such as yourself to be out unescorted. Perhaps you should return home.”
“I’d like nothing more Mr. Holmes, but I’m afraid that I must be lost. What is this place? Everything is so strange and frightening.”
“I’m afraid that I know little about it myself. Only that it is called Sunnydale, and there is strange evil afoot this night. But I will endeavor to find some place safe for you before I continue my investigation, I promise you.”
“Thank you Mr. Holmes, you are a true gentleman.”
“I...” Whatever else Holmes was planning to say was cut off by the roar of a vampire. He had just enough time to turn and see the creature coming. The same creature in fact that he had fought off only moments before. He must have circled around them, Holmes realized. Had he been paying closer attention to his surroundings he might have noticed, but now it was too late. The creature was practically on top of them, when he simply stopped in mid air and exploded into dust. Standing behind the creature was a tall man with dark hair and a heavy brow, holding a wooden stake in his hand. Lady Elisabeth once again shrieked and clung to Holmes for protection.
“Buffy, Xander, are you all right?” the man asked as he approached.
Lady Elisabeth eyed the man suspiciously from over Holmes’ shoulder as she continued to cower behind him. “We’re unharmed, Sir,” Holmes answered. “Thank you very much for your assistance.”
“Xander, why are you talking like that? Quit messing around, there’s something seriously wrong going on here. Halloween is supposed to be a night off for vampires, but they’re out in force. Not to mention demons, Power Rangers and...” he trailed off as he looked down at the unconscious man on the ground. “Pirates?”
“I assure you sir, I am not...messing around. I am well aware of these strange happenings. From what I’ve learned so far, a magic spell has been cast this night, transforming the young people of this town into the costumes that they wear. I myself am a victim of this magic, as well as this young lady I believe. From your familiar tone I surmise that you know us.”
“Sorcery!” Lady Elisabeth chimed in. “I knew this had to be some form of sorcery!”
Angel just stared at them both for a moment. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Most definitely,” Holmes answered.
“Then it’s worse then I thought. If Spike finds out that Buffy isn’t...herself, he’s sure to take advantage of the situation. That is, if he hasn’t already. Come on, I have to get you someplace safe. Buffy’s house isn’t too far from here.”
“I don’t know who this Buffy person is, but I don’t think I want to go with you,” Lady Elisabeth said, still half hiding behind Holmes. “You are a very brutish looking man, and you speak strangely.”
“Lady Elisabeth, I know it’s difficult to understand,” Holmes said. “But I believe we can trust this man. He saved our lives, and he knows more about what’s going on here than either of us. And we must get off the street if we are to be safe.”
Lady Elisabeth eyed Angel suspiciously. “Very well,” she acquiesced.
Lifting his pipe to his mouth, Sherlock turned back to Angel and offered him his hand. “My name is Sherlock Holmes, and this is Lady Elisabeth Summerland.”
Angel shook his hand. “Angel,” he said simply.
“Ah, an appropriate name considering that you saved us this night,” Holmes responded.
Angel just stared at Xander oddly. “This is too surreal. Come on, we need to get moving.”
The three of them made it to Buffy’s house without further incident. Holmes looked around the house as Angel closed the door behind them. There was a picture in a frame sitting on an end table that caught his eye. It was him, the same face that he had seen in the store window, along with the young woman he had met on the street earlier that night and Lady Elisabeth, dressed very differently. “Then it’s true,” he said to himself. “I am not who I believe myself to be.” He turned to Lady Elisabeth who stood next to him, looking at the photograph he held. “Neither of us are.”
“Impossible,” the noblewoman insisted. “This must be more sorcery.”
“I do not believe so, my lady.”
“We need to secure the doors,” Angel said. “Vampires may not be able to enter unless invited, but there’s a whole lot of things out there tonight that can. Some of them, even worse.” Just then the front door flew open and a young woman dressed as a cat ran inside. She slammed the door behind her and leaned against it. “Case in point,” Angel continued. “Hello, Cordelia.”
“What the hell is going on out there?!” Cordelia exclaimed.
Never being one who liked to see a woman in distress, Holmes stepped forward to help her. “Try to stay calm Miss, you’re safe here with us. Listen to me carefully, you are not a cat, you are in fact a young woman.”
Cordelia just stared at Xander oddly. “Yeah, no shit Sherlock!”
Holmes just lifted an eyebrow. “Vulgarities aside, at least someone around here knows who I am,” he mumbled to himself.
“Okay, what the hell is going on in here too?”
“It’s some kind of spell,” Angel answered. “They’ve been turned into their Halloween costumes, along with half the town.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “That’s just great! We can’t have one normal night in this stinking town, can we?!”
Holmes took a puff from his pipe as he thought. “Miss, a moment please. Where did you purchase your costume?” he asked Cordelia.
“Party Town, duh. You think I want to be seen at the same place where you losers shop?”
Holmes considered that a moment as he remembered the receipt he had found in his pocket. He was broken from his thoughts by the sound of glass breaking. Everyone turned and looked toward the back door where the sound had come from to see a broken window pane with a long scaly green arm sticking through it.
Lady Elisabeth shrieked with terror. “Get upstairs, now!” Angel yelled, making his way toward the back door. Buffy and Cordelia hurried up the steps. Holmes started toward the stairs but then stopped. Something about the situation just didn’t sit right with him. He couldn’t just leave this man to fight this creature by himself. Even though logically he knew that there was little he could do to help him, he just couldn’t turn his back.
By the time Angel made it to the back door, the creature had already shouldered it open and was coming inside. It was covered with green scales and had a row of sharp teeth. It swiped one of its large claws at the vampire. Angel dodged the blow and threw a punch, connecting with the side of the creature’s face. The creature roared and raked its claws down again, this time knocking Angel to the floor. It pounced on top of him, raining blow after blow down on the vampire. Angel tried kicking the thing in the midsection but it didn’t seem to have any effect. Angel’s game face came on as he got angry and growled, trying to fend off the beast. After a few more seconds of that, the creature just stopped. It let out what sounded like a moan of pain and then collapsed on top of him. Angel moved the monster off of him and looked up. Standing over him was Holmes, a cast iron skillet in his hand. Angel quickly remembered his face and it reverted back to normal. He hoped the kitchen was dark enough that Xander hadn’t seen anything.
“Are...you all right?” Holmes asked, his voice sounding unsure.
“Fine, thanks,” Angel said, pushing the green scaly thing off of himself the rest of the way. Holmes offered him a hand up, which he took. “We really need to secure these doors before that happens again.”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave that task in your capable hands my friend,” Holmes said, making his way back toward the front of the house. “There’s still a mystery to solve.”
“Xan...Sherlock, wait! Where are you going?”
“Out there,” Holmes said. “The people that I’ve met tonight are my friends, whether I remember them or not, and right now they are in danger. If this nightmare is to ever end, someone must get to the bottom of this. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. The game is afoot.”
“Xander, stop!” Angel said, grabbing the teen by the arm. “You can’t go out there, all you’ll do is get yourself killed. This isn’t a game! I know you care about your friends and you want to help them, but you can’t right now. Running out and playing hero isn’t going to accomplish anything. Sometimes, there isn’t anything you can do, and you just have to accept that.”
Holmes seemed to think about that for a moment. “No,” he said simply. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the cross he was carrying, shoving it into Angel’s face. The vampire instinctively recoiled, releasing his grip on Xander as he did so. “I’m sorry my friend, but I have deduced what you are. I don’t understand why, but I don’t believe you mean us any harm. If I did, I would have killed you in the kitchen when I had the chance. But I won’t allow you to stop me either.” Holmes started backing up toward the door, keeping the cross pointed at Angel the whole way.
“Xander, please don’t do this. You’re making a mistake.”
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. At least, for now it is. And as long as it is, I may have the power to stop this. If I don’t act, and someone gets hurt or killed as a result, I...Xander will never forgive himself. I won’t let that happen.” Holmes cast a glance up the stairs. “Keep them safe,” he said, before opening the door and darting out into the night.
Angel dashed to the doorway and considered chasing after him. He thought about Buffy and Cordelia upstairs and decided against it. He couldn’t justify risking their lives. Holmes had made his choice, the same choice that Xander would have made. Whatever happened to him, the least Angel could do was respect that. He just hoped to God that Xander didn’t get hurt out there, or worse. Because if he did, Buffy would kill him.
Ethan was standing at the counter of the costume shop, stuffing the day’s till into his duffel bag. His plan had worked better than he had expected. Chaos flowed through the streets of Sunnydale like water through Venice. He could feel it in his bones. But as much fun as it was, he knew that if he didn’t leave soon he might not be able to leave at all.
He was zipping the bag closed when he heard something. When he looked up, he saw the silhouette of a man standing in front of the door. Smoke curled up from the pipe he held in his mouth. “Ethan I presume,” he said as he stepped forward.
Ethan was taken aback, but he tried not to let the shock show on his face. “I didn’t expect to see you again tonight,” he said after a moment.
“No, I suppose you didn’t,” Holmes said, taking the pipe from his mouth.
Ethan tried to appear calm as he slung the duffel bag over his shoulder and walked around the counter. “If you’re here to return the costume I’m sorry, there are no refunds.”
“I have only one question for you. Why?”
“Why?” Ethan repeated. He started to laugh, he couldn’t help it. “Why, he asks. Take a look around you, at the chaos. It’s powerful, it’s…”
“No,” Holmes interrupted. “You misunderstand. I’m not asking you why you committed this atrocity. The act itself provides the motive. It’s senseless and harms the innocent. Clearly the work of a deranged individual. No further motive is ever necessary for such a person. My question is why did you sell me this costume? You had to have known I would figure it out.”
Ethan laughed again, even harder than before. “You still don’t get it do you, what you are?”
“I know that I am not Holmes, that I only possess his knowledge and memories.”
“Not exactly,” Ethan said with a wicked smile. “You don’t possess Holmes’ knowledge and memories, because there is no Holmes. He’s a *fictional* character. As in not real, imaginary, fake. You are just a boy who *thinks* he’s Holmes. What would I possibly have to fear from you?”
“And yet here I stand.”
“Luck. Happenstance, nothing more.”
“All the same, I have defeated you.”
“You’ve done nothing of the sort. The fact that you’ve discovered that I performed the spell brings you no closer to ending it.”
“On the contrary. I’ve learned a great many things about magic this night, one of them being that for a spell such as this, a talisman is needed. An object to focus the magic. And that if this object is destroyed, the spell will end. I have been observing you from the moment I stepped into this shop. Your eyes have been darting around the room, looking at the exits, plotting your escape route no doubt. But I’ve also seen you glance over at that corner over there, at that statue. I believe it is the focus of the spell.”
Ethan looked like a deer in headlights now, his eyes darting back and forth from the bust to Xander. “Even if it is, what makes you think you can get to it before I can?”
Holmes just smiled. “Sherlock Holmes never liked resorting to fisticuffs,” he said. “But as you pointed out, I’m not really Sherlock Holmes. I’ve also learned a great many things about this young man this evening. I’ve learned that he’s brave, that he’s loyal. But most importantly, I’ve learned that when the people he cares about are in trouble, there is absolutely nothing that he won’t do to help them.”
Xander started toward the bust. Ethan met him halfway and tried to stop him. Xander grabbed his arm and spun him into one of the display mannequins, causing it and him to topple to the floor. He then rushed over to the statue and picked it up. He lifted it over his head and smashed it to the ground. The bust broke into a dozen pieces, and a wisp of energy floated up from it and disappeared into the air.
Xander started to feel dizzy. He leaned against the wall for support as his head began to clear. It was the strangest sensation, like being thrust into the driver’s seat of a car that was already moving. After a few seconds his head cleared. He looked over and saw Ethan starting to get up. He clenched his fists and started toward the chaos mage. “You son of a…” Xander’s sentence was cut off though as he nearly collapsed in a coughing fit. His lungs were burning, aching like he’d been punched in the chest. He started feeling dizzy again as he couldn’t seem to draw enough air through the coughing.
Ethan took the opportunity to grab his bag and run out through the back, just as the front door of the shop swung open violently and Giles ran in. The watcher saw Xander on his knees on the floor of the shop, coughing. He ran over to the boy and tried to pull him up.
“It’s okay, just try to breath. Deep slow breaths.” Xander leaned on Giles as he got his breath back. “What happened?”
Xander quickly looked around the shop. Ethan was gone. “Damn it!” he yelled. “I had him! I had him and he got away!”
“So it was Ethan then, who was behind the spell.”
“Oh yeah, it was him all right. Holmes figured it out. But as soon as he smashed the bust and I was me again I…I’m sorry Giles, I let him get away. Stupid pipe!” Xander growled in frustration. “You couldn’t just chew gum, or bite your fingernails!” he yelled, looking up in the air.
That’s when Giles realized, Holmes had been smoking that pipe all night in Xander’s body, and Xander was a nonsmoker. The shock to his system must have hit him all at once. “It’s not your fault, Xander. At least the spell is broken.”
Xander sighed. “Yeah, that’s something,” he conceded. Suddenly he looked up at Giles. “What about Buffy and Willow, are they okay?!”
“I haven’t heard from them,” Giles admitted.
“Come on,” Xander said, running out of the shop. Giles followed quickly behind him.
The next day Xander, Buffy, and Willow sat around the table in the library, talking about the night before. Giles was shelving books nearby.
“So what was it like, Xander?” Willow asked.
“Having the most brilliant analytical mind in the history of literature, what was it like?”
Xander seemed to consider it a moment before answering. “It was like…living your whole life in the dark, and someone coming along and turning on the light. I could see everything, understand everything. And then just as quickly, bang. Darkness again.” Xander paused. “It’s strange, I know I’m the same person I’ve always been, but I almost feel…dumber now. I guess feeling what it’s like to have a mind like that, just makes me realize how stupid I really am.”
“Oh, Xander, no…” Willow started.
“It’s okay Will, I didn’t say that looking for pity. It’s just going to take some getting used to, being plain old me again. I just wanted to let you guys know, in case you notice I’m in a bit of a funk these next few days, you’ll know why.”
“There’s still one thing I don’t understand,” Giles said, walking over to the table and taking a seat. “What Ethan said, about Holmes being a fictional character and therefore not a real threat to him. It makes sense, and yet you figured it all out.”
Xander smiled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the pipe. “I think I might actually have an answer for that. Take a look at this,” he said, handing the pipe to Giles, pointing inside the lip.
“ACD,” Giles read. The letter carved onto the pipe. “Arthur Conan Doyle.”
“The pipe must have belonged to him. I don’t know if Ethan knew that or not. Anyway it makes sense. Holmes might not be real, but the man who wrote him was. It was Doyle’s intelligence that I borrowed last night.”
“Either way, I’m grateful,” Buffy said. “You saved out butts last night, Xan.”
Xander shook his head. “No, Holmes saved our butts. I’m just the guy that let Ethan get away.”
“Now that’s where you’re wrong,” Giles said. “Holmes may have been brilliant, but he was also cold, detached. The man who risked his life last night, venturing out into the dark, seeking out clues, going after Ethan. That was a man of passion, a man who cared about his friends. You may have been channeling Holmes, but the more he learned about you, the more he became you. The person who saved us last night Xander was you, none other. And I’m quite proud of you.”
Xander just stared at Giles for a second, stunned. “I…I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
Giles could tell by the look on Xander’s face, he didn’t receive praise very often, and as such didn’t really know how to react to it. He made a mental note to try and remedy that situation as much as he could. He stood from his chair and handed Xander back the pipe, clasping him on the shoulder and offering him a father-like smile before heading back to the stacks and his work.
“That’s pretty good detective work there, Xander, finding the initials on the pipe,” Willow said. “Maybe Holmes is starting to rub off on you after all.”
Xander stared down at the pipe in his hand for a moment, thinking about what Willow had said. Should he tell them the truth, he thought. That Holmes’ memories and skills hadn’t completely gone away. That they hovered on the cusp of his unconscious, and that he could feel them, constantly analyzing everything he encountered. No, he decided. There was no reason to worry them he deduced.
Xander put the pipe in his mouth. “Elementary, my dear Willow.”