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Stake and Empathy

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Ripples". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: For Halloween, Ethan talks Buffy out of focusing on the past and into a tighter-fitting outfit.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Trek > Star Trek - The Next Generation(Current Donor)ShieldageFR1536,61502910,64026 Aug 067 Sep 06No

Chapter One

BtVS by Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Star Trek:TNG by Roddenberry and Paramount.

References for Season Two's Halloween drawn from BuffyWorld

Tanydwr asked the site for a BuffyCentric Halloween... I kinda took the idea and ran with it :)

1/4/13 Heh, thanks go to reviewer KevinSchultz who asked me to explain Angel's out of character knowledge. After I thought a bit, I wrote a prologue reflecting an encounter between the vampire and something weird. It recently occurred to me that it'd be nice to blame that on Ethan as well, so I've updated the prologue and this story accordingly :)

It was October 1997 in Sunnydale, a few days before Halloween. Safe in the back of his rented costume shop, Ethan Rayne closed the Pratchett book he had been reading as he frowned to himself.

He walked over to the selection of supplies he'd gone through in setting up his shop and withdrew a long section of cord. He glanced once over his shoulder, then looked forward and closed his eyes.

Without turning around, he hurled the rope precisely into the angle of the corner. It struck the walls and fell promptly to the ground.

He walked over and picked it up. Every single available bit of its formerly smooth length had been twisted into knots.

His expression grew grimmer as he grabbed the ends of the cord and pulled. Not a single twist unraveled.

"Damn Hellmouth," he muttered. "I should never have come here. No matter if it is where Ripper has set up shop."

"Heh, wonder if he'd approve of mine?" He chortled, sweeping his arms in a dramatic gesture toward the costumes that, two days hence, would transform the wearers.

"You know, there could be outside influences around here," he frowned again, picking up a large and rather ancient looking book. "I'd better do a sweep of the area, using this 'astral projection' bit, even if I don't personally believe in it."

Unseen and unheard, Ethan's astral form watched a young woman attacking a vampire. From the skills evident in her staking of the creature with a signpost, she could only be Giles' current ward. The Slayer.

He wasn't the only one watching her, however... A young-smelling vamp was also video-taping her from the shadows.

Ethan grinned ethereally, this was an added bit of Chaos in the Slayer's normally ho-hum routine of staking average monsters.

He followed, in spirit, the anonymous vampire to a warehouse where, in exchange for the tape, the vampire received some cash, several small calico kittens and the opportunity to live another night.

Ethan Rayne sucked himself back into his shop, into his physical form, as he doubled over in laughter.

Those dark figures he'd seen, that had claimed that dank place as their home-

Those were surely William and Drusilla, Ethan thought. Scions of Angelus... Oh, how had Giles raved on those drunken nights, telling the worst stories of Watchers and the dreary days he had escaped from. That he had so gladly returned to when the nights had grown too dark for his blood...

Ethan chuckled darkly. "Well, the nights will soon be full of whimsy and blood, if I have anything to say about it." Standing up, he wandered over to a TV Guide and begin to flip through it. "I wonder if those two renegades from the Scourge of Europe know how far Angelus has fallen, or at least had when I last saw him in New York?"

"Would it be too much of a coincidence for him to have followed them to a town with a Slayer? I remember that particular magitech experiment of mine had a few favorite shows... Need to find one that's still popular, at least in reruns, that will leave a large impression." As he paged through the small book, Ethan smiled fondly, remembering the animated television that had used the vampire as a host. "Ah, yes, for a theme, this will do nicely."

The next day, Buffy Summers was unhappy that her friends were aiming low.

Despite the Slayer's plea that she wear something freeing, something sexy, something not a tastefully shapeless blanket, Willow was picking out a ghost costume.

Xander was focusing on spending as little as possible. A simple purchase of a plastic gun to go with his fatigues at home and Voila! Instant costume.

Yeah, Buffy thought, I'm really going to have to learn how to spell that word... I'm impressed I can focus on a train of thought and carry on a conversation with Xander about his seeming weakness at school without- Oh! That red dress over there! Perfect for me to spring on Angel, my ancient but souled and fit vampire crush.

It was a near exact replica of the elaborate gowns she'd seen sketched in Giles' journals. Bye, Xander. Hello, a night as a winsome noblewoman!

Of course she couldn't see Angel until after taking those darn kids Trick or Treating. Not that she minded the kids wanting to go, just that she'd been forced into it.

But the dress.

Oh, Xander. Talking. Whoops. “I’m sorry, it’s just… look at this.”

“It’s amazing,” said Willow.

“Too bulky,” said Xander. “I prefer my women in spandex.”

She spotted a tall man approaching from the back of the store, probably the 'Ethan' mentioned in the large sign out front.

When he reached her, he whisked the dress from the rack and held it in front of a mirror, in front of her.

He purred in an English accent that she was a princess and that it truly matched her.

Buffy frowned, protesting that it was probably too expensive.

"Well, there's money spent on things for you," he said, smiling. "And there's money spent on gifts for others."

"Tell me," he grinned, motioning her forward, away from her friends.

She looked around a bit, then, confident she could handcuff him with a coat-hanger if she absolutely had to, followed him a few steps further into the rows of costumes.

"Tell me," he repeated. "I'm curious about your choice of dress."

"Well, there's this guy," she answered, despite herself. "He, well, at least he used to be into women who looked like that. A long phase of period pieces. I'm just trying to get him to think of me in the same way he did them."

"Well my dear," Ethan spun, draping the dress on the nearest hook. "There's giving a boy what he wanted, and there's giving him something to look forward to..."

"... You don't want to look to elegantly restrained, bodice pulsing lust to get into a man's heart. No, you go for," he broke off and lowered his voice. "Empathy."

Buffy held the long purple suit in front of herself, at home in her bedroom. The house would be empty tonight, Halloween.

Her mother was winding her way somewhere and Buffy was alone in her house, except for Willow, who was changing in the bathroom.

Buffy frowned. Something about the British guy was nagging at her. Maybe she should...

Grabbing a dark wig she held it in front of the mirror with one hand, the skin-tight suit in the other, then put them both on the bed and went downstairs.

She walked around for a bit, wondering if she should phone Giles about his fellow expatriate, but she chuckled, passing it off as Xena-phobia. Xeni? Nah...

Buffy shook her head again as she climbed the stairs, only to find that Willow had wandered into her vacant bedroom and was... hot.

Buffy could say that in a purely truthful, non-sexual way.

Yes, the red-headed formally geekish, currently quiet, expert hacker was dressed in a stunning leather outfit. Extra thigh showing, great boots, hair pulled back her face gleaming with the effort of the makeup applied to it.

None of which was any excuse for Willow to be attempting high kicks and waving around a very sharp stake.

"Hey," Buffy said happily, breaking Willow's concentration and causing her to fumble the weapon.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Buffy stated, picking up the piece of pointed wood as it rolled across the ground. "You looked like you were having fun. Hey, I'm impressed. That halter-top fits you like a glove. And a purely straight: 'Rowr'."

Willow blushed and grabbed the ghost shroud from where she'd draped it on the bed. "You know," she said. "I'm not too happy with showing all this skin and the ghost costume might be kinda lonely if I left it here all alone..."

"Hey, don't worry," Buffy said as she walked a few steps closer. "It will be okay and, you know what? You will be too."

After they exchanged a few more words, Buffy left the room with her costume. She'd decided to change in the bathroom, so she could give Willow some space and time to practice her skills.

Willow grinned a fierce grin and twirled the stake around in her fingers before jamming it into one of her straps. She spun, smiling.

And whispered... "The Slayer."

Then her nerve broke and she threw the ill-fitting shroud back over her tight leather ensemble.

Yet, under it, she kept the stake.

Sometimes a little change like that is enough.

When the doorbell rang, Buffy was there to answer it.

She peered around the edge and watched Xander perform a short salute.

“Private Harris reporting for—” he broke off as she stepped into his field of view.

He not only stopped talking, but practically drooled over her curves.

"There is a God..." he murmured.

"Yes and he gave guys like you eyelids. Blink more often."

"Oh," he said, coming back to himself. "There's just the entire added geek factor- Forget I said that."

"No problem and check out-" Buffy turned, waving dramatically to where she could hear Willow standing at the top of the stairs.

"The-" Buffy began triumphantly, only to break off when she realized that Willow was hiding under the ghost-sheet. The Slayer finished weakly: "Ghost of Halloween Present?"

"Oh, cool." Xander nodded. "But I'd expect some flames licking at the bottom and a bit more of the Boca del Diablo motif."

"Well," Willow said as she descended the stairs. She caught Buffy's gaze through the eye holes and shrugged underneath the white sheet. "I, uh, didn't want to scare the little kiddies?"

"Right," Xander said, snapping a smart salute and waving his plastic gun proudly. "To the troops!"

As they walked down the street together, Buffy noticed Xander stealing glances at her chest. Something that she might not have minded that much, except for the worried look on his face.

"Oh," Xander stammered, when he realized he'd been caught. "The, uh, shiny metal communication bit is the wrong style." Xander backed up a step and sketched out a quick rectangle with his hands. "Those ones are from the movies and, well, Voyager. You need a round accessory from the show itself, when she'd have actually worn that outfit."

Doubtful, Buffy looked down at the silver triangle and hollow golden rectangle pinned to her costume. Raising her head slightly she asked: "Does it really matter that much?"

"Well, my dear," the bleached-blond Spike said, turning to Drusilla. "It's Halloween, and still no sign of your 'friend' who's supposed to change everything. Liven up the place."

"Give him time," she murmured, pressing a finger to his lips. "Give him-"

She broke off when there was a loud thump. Something heavy had just hit the warehouse door.

Spike readied a large sword he'd stolen from somewhere and, after sniffing the air, looked outside, flinching slightly at the last rays of the sun. He frowned as he bent down to grab a large package, inspecting it closely before bringing it back inside. "No incendiary devices, no taint of gears or machine oil," he explained, seeing her raised eyebrow. "And... Look at the note."

"From Angelus," Drusilla breathed, reading the scrawled letters. She frowned, peering closer. "No, it doesn't smell like father. The one who flung this package was definitely a living human."

"Yes, but... The blighter that soul turned him into might just be too sodding spineless to give us... To drop off a gift in person. Of course..." Spike frowned, then tore open the package Ethan had left for them.

The vampires gazed in wonder at the things carefully folded inside, until their eyes locked from across the table.

Yes, they knew that wondrous things might be happening outside, in the streets of Sunnydale, that night... But, they'd just found an excellent reason to stay in. They weren't about to pass it up.

Sometimes a little change is enough... And sometimes a large push in the right direction is needed.

Later that evening, Willow pulled her sheet tight against herself as a chill wind blew through town. Unbeknownst to her, it was a sign that Ethan's Latin chant had ended and his Chaos spell had begun.

Willow was thinking back, past the point where she had begun trick-or-treating with the kids, back to the high school... That short boy she'd bumped into... He was cute... If only she'd been more confident, he'd have seen her, but the sheet was in the-

She was broken from her reverie by a little boy unexpectedly snapping at the nice lady who had run out of candy. Literally snapping with teeth, then grabbing the woman by the throat.

Several other members of the little group transformed, becoming flesh and blood versions of their costumes. The normal ones, unchanged, scattered, screaming.

As a second monster attacked the one choking the old lady, breaking his hold and inadvertently saving her life, Willow sank to her knees, unable to do anything. She was too busy suffocating as her lungs gave up the ghost.

Spike and Drusilla rolled happily around in the large bed. Their play had grown so... exciting that they'd ditched the tight costumes in exchange for bare skin.

Not all of the costume pieces had met the floor, however.

She was still sporting the long, red-haired wig... He was still wearing the brown hairpiece with the daring mustache and beard.

Buffy opened her eyes and saw that she was on an unfamiliar porch. She felt a very odd kind of non-hurt. A kind of emptiness.

She sat up, abruptly, then rose to her feet and brushed herself off. She looked down and saw that...

Below her was the body of a young woman covered in an ill-fitting sheet. The white shroud covered her features, only barely showing her closed eyes. Her chest was free of movement, other than where Buffy's legs overlapped the prone form...

Buffy shivered and stepped to the side, out of the intangible body... She frowned, looking around at the chaos.

She looked down again, because, she had just come out of that body and...

The last thing she remembered clearly was finding Willow in her bedroom and... She jumped to the wrong conclusion.

"Not too happy with showing all this skin and lonely ghost costume, indeed," Buffy-Ghost huffed. "She must have talked me into wearing this thing over some good looking clothes, so she could parade around, confident, in my costume. Good timing."

"Everyone's turned into their costumes... Now I'm the one left walking through walls while she gets to explore Sunny-" Buffy-Ghost broke off at the sound of gunfire. "Great. I hope I'm not invisible on top of everything."

With only a second look, she charged off towards Soldier-Xander, leaving Willow's sheet-covered body laying on the ground behind her...

Black-haired, purple-suited, half-Betazoid Deanna Troi found herself among a swirl of chaotic emotions, mostly fear.

There was some lust, some anger. Darker emotions.

There was a miasma of darkness.

She didn't know where she was.

It looked like a reconstruction of a nightmare in late Twentieth-Century America.

A holographic projection from the sheer surreality... It had to be...

But the emotions she felt... Could only be produced by...


This was not good.

They opened their eyes and stared at each other from across the kiss.

Commander William Riker broke it off first, rolling to his side of the bed.

He lifted up the covers. Yes. He was naked.

Yes. She was too.

Doctor Beverly Crusher said it first.

"Oh no," she groaned, ready to maim whatever had done this to them.

Her voice was full of resolve... With just a tinge of embarrassment... "Not again."
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