Disclaimer: I own nothing. A further disclaimer is at the end of this story to avoid spoilers.
Author’s Note: You’re invited to guess who exactly is the character presented in this story before the secret is revealed, but please do in in a private review so as not to spoil the fun for others. At the end of the story, I’ll give credit to anyone who got it right. Thanks!
On Halloween morning before school started, Angel looked up from his appalled study of the clothing lying upon the table inside the cellar of the Crawford Street mansion, and he coldly spoke: “No.”
Xander Harris’ face that presently bore a grin of pure evil didn’t alter a fraction, as this gleeful teenager tried again. “But if you do, I’ll quit calling you Deadboy, Captain Hairgel, Sir Broods-A-Lot--”
“If this is the way you usually try to talk people into things, I strongly suggest changing your negotiating style, yah little shite,” snarled the Irish vampire, the stress of the moment causing his brogue to strongly manifest itself.
The Sunnydale native considered that for a few moments, until he finally shook his head and informed a glowering Angel, “Nah, it’s worked okay so far. Look, you already know my feelings about you, but let me just say this: you put on that costume tonight, and I’ll really, really respect you for having the sheer guts to wear it!”
In his seat at the head of the table, Angel beadily eyed the earnest teenager trying his utmost to persuade the older (much older) man to dress up for Halloween, until then this vampire cursed with a soul had his displeased expression suddenly turn blank, while his body shifted a fraction in the chair, to promptly produce a very familiar sound that easily communicated the utter disdain that demon felt towards Xander.
“Nice one,” admitted a gagging Xander, edging back a few paces and waving his hand in front of his face to disperse the toxic fumes now hanging in the cellar’s atmosphere. Suddenly halting in his tracks, the young man then shot a puzzled glance at a smirking Angel, asking with honest wonder in his tone, “Hey, you don’t breathe and you sure as hell don’t eat solid food, either! How’s it possible for you to cut the cheese anyway?”
The demon haughtily answered, “Live in ignorance, Harris. Now, aren’t you going to be late for school? Go bother your teachers, or preferably, anyone else in the whole world.”
Grumbling, Xander turned away and he started heading towards the stairs leading up from the cellar to the ground floor. Still continuing to mutter under his breath, that teenager was almost at the first tread when Angel caught with his inhuman hearing, “….Buffy would’ve liked it….”
” snapped the vampire, abruptly sitting straight up in his chair, as his visitor immediately halted and then swung around, a surprised look on his features, as Xander now gazed directly into Angel’s own suspicious face. Persisting in a very mistrustful tone, Angel demanded, “What does Buffy have to do with….with that?
” At this stressed final word, a former member of the Scourge of Europe pointed a decisive index finger at the costume lying limply upon the table.
Taking a few steps back towards this furniture, Xander then stopped, as he shrugged and answered, “Nothing, Deadboy. I picked it out on my own without telling her, though I have to say now, the Buffster would’ve been pleased as punch to see you in it.”
The very faintest trace of betrayal then passed over Angel’s countenance, as he sputtered, “She’d have laughed at me, like I was some sort of clown--?”
“Ack! Ack!” interrupted Xander with his horrified yelps, as that apprehensive boy abruptly clapped his hands over his ears to block out that ghastly utterance, with him further frantically emphasizing, “Do NOT use the c-word!”
A bewildered Angel stared at his guest now almost as pale as the vampire himself, and also fearfully lowering his hands while shooting nervous looks around the cellar, as if Xander actually expected the sudden appearance out of thin air some maniacally-grinning comic circus performer with their enormous red shoes, white facial greasepaint, and a ready bucket of confetti.
Leaning back in his chair, an unliving being began to rub at his throbbing temples with his fingertips in order to alleviate his sudden headache, with Angel beginning to wonder if atonement was actually worth all this. Finally bringing down one hand to wearily wave this at the outfit on the table before him, Angel tried again, “You’re the one who brought up her name in the first place! If those clothes have nothing to do with Buffy, why would she enjoy seeing me in them, Harris?”
“Oh, that,” gulped a relieved Xander, who then developed a superb poker face at what he’d just heard in the other male’s voice. Just as an expert angler can tell from the merest tug upon their line that they’ve got a fish on their hook, there was presently the faintest trace of interest in Angel’s voice. To further continue that metaphor, it was now time to reel in their catch. His thoughts racing, Xander inwardly brightened at the strategy he’d just gleefully come up with, barely managing to contain his giggles.
Instead, Xander casually informed the vampire leaning forward in his chair, “Look, Angel, one reason why people like to dress up on Halloween is to show a completely different face to everyone. They can get away on that holiday with presenting themselves in their costumes as someone else than their usual ordinary lives, not just to themselves, but to their friends, family, and especially to those people they’d like to impress. People such as those they’re involved with in a relationship.”
Drawing in a needed deep breath, Xander mentally congratulated himself, *Yeah, he’s buying it. Time to go for the clincher.*
In his most serious tone, Xander told Angel, “Buffy herself is dressing up for you, and no, I’m not gonna tell you what she’s wearing. You really think I wanna get stuffed down the nearest garbage can? But she wants to surprise you, and if you wear that costume there, you’ll sure as blazes impress her.
For one, putting it on shows that you’ve got an actual sense of humor and you’re not afraid to laugh at yourself, or have other people laugh at you, ‘cause you’re willing to let them if it makes others happy.”
“Um,” commented a doubtful Angel, as he also cast an equally dubious glance at the colorful costume on the table. Still, the vampire hadn’t flat out rejected anything just said by Xander, who was himself triumphantly thinking, *Okay, get the big net and the hooked pole ready, it’s time to pull this sucker into the boat and then mount him over the fireplace.*
In a very confiding whisper that Xander was supremely certain the demon could hear, Angel was now told, “Best of all, Buffy really
loves that character. You wanna know how I found that out?”
Despite himself, a hypnotized Irishman lifted his eyebrows in expectation of an answer while Xander regarded him in calm approval, as the teenager went on to reveal all. “Well, a couple of weeks ago, me and Wils were hanging around one Saturday in Buffy’s bedroom with her, when she was going through her closet for new clothes. In the middle of this, a doll wearing that
was found by Willow in there!” At those excited words, Xander also pointed right at the costume lying in front of Angel, who glanced down in clear surprise at this. Looking up once more at Xander, the vampire saw the human himself firmly nodding in absolute assurance.
“See, we eventually got it out of the Buffinator that she’d always had that; in fact, it was probably the very first toy she could remember, and she kept it through everything in her life -- growing up, becoming the Slayer, moving to Sunnydale. So, Angel, how’d you think Buffy would feel, seeing someone brave enough to wear that costume around her?”
As he finished his inspiring speech, Xander absently glanced at his watch, to then yelp in alarm, “Aw, geez! School’s gonna start, and I have to go!” Spinning to hurriedly head for the stairs, Xander bounded up these steps, all while calling out over his shoulder at a taken-aback Angel over his visitor’s abrupt departure. “I told you where we’re gonna take the kids Snyder foisted on us, Angel, so you can find us tonight if you want to! Don’t worry, I won’t tell Buffy, so you’ll be sure to really surprise her!”
Xander managed to get through the cellar door and slam it behind himself, in the middle of a shouted “XAN--!” by Angel, as the high school student then burst out of the Crawford Street mansion and headed towards his destination, all at a dead run. Still, after dashing along several city blocks at his fastest speed, more than enough distance to remove himself out of range of a vampire’s sensitive hearing, Xander staggered to a bench in a deserted Sunnydale city park, dropped into this seat, wrapped his arms tightly around himself, and he howled with laughter at the top of his lungs.