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Pyrrhic Victory

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Summary: Sure, he won the bets. He can dress Cordy and her friends up for Halloween. Then Xander realizes… he's stuck dressing Cordy and her friends up for Halloween. And… huh. Who's that shy, black-haired girl Cordy is spending all her time with..? X/f/f, C/f

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Wars > Xander-Centered
Star Wars > Cordelia-Centered
(Moderator)JoeHundredaireFR18427,96668226,18127 Jan 1114 Apr 13No

Chapter Two

Joe's Note: Well, as the story marches on we get to see more of the A Plot and some of the promised unusual C Plot. Tara was supposed to show up this chapter but it ran long and so she got pushed back to Chapter 3. Hope you don't mind. As always, read and review and such. This story may be finished but the next piece isn't and I'm always interested in hearing your thoughts. Who knows, something you suggest might show up in the next story…



September 26, 2003



     "I know, right? That's what I told the girls when they asked me if I'd made the same bet with Harmony." Rubbing his hands together, Xander grinned at Becki before looking over at Harmony. "No, I'm here to… well, she's about to be sucked in but not because of a bet we've made. Yet. Wanna come along for the ride and watch the master at work?"

     Letting out another giggle, Becki gave him a nudge forward and then fell into step beside him as they closed in on where the blonde was staring intently at an apple she held in one hand. "You're right, you know. Cordy facing off with you is kinda like the unstoppable force and the immovable object. No matter what she does, you always survive and come back for more. Harm? It's more like the immovable object versus a watermelon." She made a whistling noise before pantomiming something exploding. "Splat."

     Reaching the table, Xander was prevented from firing the opening salvo of what he was predicting would be a rather run of the mill one-sided battle of the wits when Harmony opened her mouth and asked something that sounded stupid even by his remarkably low standards. "You know what would be like, really cool? If they could make apples that were like cows. Because you don't need to kill a cow to get the milk out. I like apples and apple juice. Why do those evil fruit farmers make me choose between them?"

     Becki bit her lip to keep from laughing in Harmony's face, but Xander couldn't manage to contain himself. He laughed. Loudly. "They clearly hate you, Harm, and are out to deny you happiness at every turn." Having obviously expected another response, different visitors, or both, Harmony's head snapped up sharply in surprise. "Howdy. Just here to see if you wanna make a little bet. Because… I think I'm going to be able to talk Cordelia into dressing up in a nice, geeky Halloween costume this year. I'm feeling lucky. If you can stop me, I'll let you dress me up in whatever you want. Anything you can think of. But if you can't… I get to dress Cordelia and you." Holding out his left hand, since he didn't trust Harmony to be able to easily swap hands and free up her right to shake, he grinned down at the puzzled looking blonde. "So… deal?"

     "Um… kay? I mean, Cordelia hates you. There's no way you're going to pull this off. But if you really want to end up being my Dork King Ken for the night, whatever. You know, I've always wanted to go as a fairytale princess and make someone go as a unicorn with me…" Eyes glazing over as she pondered potential humiliations to inflict upon him, Harmony slowly rose from her chair and headed for the cafeteria doors.

     Letting out a low whistle of admiration, Becki shook her head slowly. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. That was hilarious. Mean, but hilarious."

     "Yeah, I know. So, just so I know how many people to plan for, are you in too?"

     "Sure, what the hell."



     Thundering up the steps towards her room, Willow Rosenberg dropped her backpack at the top of staircase and then hurried down the hall towards her room, stripping as she went. These days she kept two separate hampers and her fuzzy sweater and corduroy jumper went into an obnoxiously bright pink one the second she entered her room. Kicking off her loafers, she moved to sit on the edge of her bed and quickly wriggled out of her tights, balling them up and hurling them into the hamper as well. Feeling comfortable in her skin again for the first time in eight hours, Willow let herself tip backwards and rested her elbows on the mattress as she slowly kicked her legs. Ahh. Fresh air. One of these days, she vowed, she was going to stand up to Buffy and seize the right to grow into the young woman she wanted to be - instead of who the Slayer wanted her to be - and then she could wear whatever the hell she wanted to school. As much or as little as that turned out to be.

     Not that she had any intention of looking to Cordy and her sheep for fashion advice. There was a happy medium between what she wore now and what the cheerleaders tended to not-wear on a day-to-day basis, though, and she was eager to explore it. She already was, partially, hence the need for a second wardrobe to hold all her clothes. But to really embrace it, to be able to wear it to school or the Bronze or out slaying or to the movies with Xander or wherever the heck else she felt like going… that was what she wanted.

     One of these days…

     Sighing in resignation, Willow sat up and then slid off her bed, padding over to the dresser full of her real clothes and pulling out a green tank top and jean skirt. The last thing she needed, after all, was to be left scrambling to throw clothes on because her parents had forgotten to keep her appraised of their schedule and had come home 'early'. As she dressed, Willow pondered how fickle fashion, pop culture, popularity, and - most of all - Buffy seemed to be. The blonde had been all for Willow coming out of her shell and changing how she dressed and learning how to interact with boys… on Buffy's terms. The redhead had learned that the hard way after the shopping expeditions that had netted her most of these clothes. She'd lasted a whopping four differently dressed, calmer and more mature days before Buffy's backhanded compliments and passive-aggressive criticism of her attempt at a more boy-friendly style and personality had driven her back into the safety of fluff, corduroy, and caffeinated babbling.

     Or rather she'd waved the white flag when it came to experimenting at school. When she was at home, on the other hand? There were plenty of people who liked the new - or was that real? - her here, and so she wasn't afraid to let that Willow out in the safety of her bedroom, even if it did mean going through twice as much laundry a week as she used to. Granted the people who liked her were virtual people and if Buffy or Xander ever found out about what she was doing, they would freak… but Willow had no intention of telling either of them about her after school activities, which made that problem a bit of a moot point, didn't it?

     Once she was dressed again, albeit in more comfortable clothes, Willow threw herself down in front of her computer and swiped her finger across the laptop's touchpad to wake it from sleep mode. Again thanking her parents for bowing to her nagging and upgrading to broadband, she jumped straight into Mail and picked her way through forty-two messages: one from each of her parents with the same information since they evidently didn't talk to each other either and both had thought it was their turn to email her, along with eight messages from different online friends, twenty-seven mixed spam emails offering to shrink or enlarge assorted body parts - one of which she did not have - and five from Nigeria asking her to help them claim small fortunes. The thirty-two spam emails and her father's version of their upcoming itinerary went in the trash, Willow returned the emails from her online friends to 'unread' status to make sure she'd see them later, and then she was out of Mail and searching the Dock for a specific icon. And… click.

     Program loading…

     Making the cute little vwoop noises as her two screen names connected and their respective buddy lists expanded to show who was online… and iChat AV was up and running. The only thing left to figure out was whether or not there was anyone worth talking to online at the moment.

     'Message from: nitelong'

     'Message from: AndrewManley'

     'Message from: scheminghamsters'

     'Message from: vvertigov'

     'Message from: TakamishiMaru'

     'Message from: anotherlostsoul'

     Willow grinned widely as the incoming message announcements began to overlap. Well, she wasn't sure yet if some - or even any - of them were worth talking to, but they sure wanted to talk to her. Was this how Cordelia felt at school? Clicking on each message, she began sending out the standard greetings, doing her best to remember who she'd talked with in the past and who had decided to up and poke her with no warning. Not that she minded. She was always up for meeting new people these days. Online, at least. Although she hadn't done half bad at the mall the other week with that nice boy she met at Old Navy. She'd managed… what? At least ten or fifteen sentences before having to go away? That was a significant improvement from just vowel sounds in her book.

     'Message from: ItsAllBigger25'

     Ooh. Hello there, friend. Grinning widely, Willow clicked the 'Accept' button.

     3:30 PM ItsAllBigger25: And how is California's cutest ginger this afternoon? Back at your place yet or did you hop on from one of the public areas?

     3:31 PM LilRedRdnHo: home of course

     3:31 PM LilRedRdnHo: tgif, lol.

     3:31 PM LilRedRdnHo: the only way i was staying on campus any longer than i had to was if you tied me down

     3:32 PM ItsAllBigger25: Ooh, bondage. ;) Name the time and place, baby. I'll be there with bells on… and some rope, of course.

     3:32 PM LilRedRdnHo: not what I meant and you know it :P

     3:32 PM ItsAllBigger25: I can dream, can't I?

     3:33 PM LilRedRdnHo: for now

     3:33 PM LilRedRdnHo: maybe youll get lucky for Christmas or something ;)

     3:34 PM ItsAllBigger25: …huh. You know, I saw the cutest Naughty Ms. Claus outfit the other day at Amazing Adult. Maybe I'll pick up one in your size. Just in case.

     3:34 PM LilRedRdnHo: and a pair of nice tall black leather boots?

     3:35 PM ItsAllBigger25: *blink* What happened to the other pair I sent you?

     3:35 PM LilRedRdnHo: well, we were gonna tape it but nobody wanted to sit out the fun to hold the cam… ;)

     3:35 PM ItsAllBigger25: O_O Now I'm really curious…

     Hmm. Choices choices. Now she could either come up with a really good story to tell him - and considering how much time she spent chatting with guys online these days, creating fictional naughtiness on demand was something she was becoming quite good at - or she could distract him with a bit of skin. She was torn, to be honest: she really did enjoy the intellectual exercise of coming up with interesting and arousing yarns to spin for guys online, but her little soft-core webcam shows were pretty much the only times guys looked at her as an attractive young woman and she liked that too.

     While Willow knew that most people would find what she did to be equal to - or worse than - what the Cordettes did to earn their popularity with the boys of Sunnydale High, but the redhead thought that was just plain crazy. For one, her idea of fun didn't have the potential to end in a visit to Planned Parenthood or an STD test. Chatting with guys was just a way of helping them feel good while exercising her formidable mind, and as for her cam shows… okay, well, those might be getting a bit close to the line of good taste, but those were fun and she never showed much more than she saw other girls showing at the beach. She just let guys see it from the comfort of their desk, instead of having to go outside.

     And the arrangement benefited her, too, and not just in the form of the presents her friends sometimes sent her. She was a growing girl, both physically and emotionally, and in need of an outlet of some sort for her newfound urges. What better way to express herself than this? Okay, maybe the fact that she had to lie about her age and exactly where in Sunnydale she was going to school was a sign that what she was doing wasn't quite right… but again, it beat the Cordettes' solution. After all, the only thing she knew about motherhood was that she definitely wasn't ready for it - or the effect it would have on her life - at sixteen.

     Tugging out on the neckline of her tank top, Willow peered down. Well, there was certainly a point in favor of going with the camera distraction idea: it would be an awful shame to let a bra this cute go unseen. It was actually one of her favorites: a green satin number overlaid with black lace to create a floral design. And given it came from Frederick's of Hollywood, not only did it have an equally cute pair of matching panties but it was designed to offer her both 'some padding' and 'lots of padding' options as needed. Which meant she could be wear them to school and not look out of place, and then come home and insert the included padding to give her a bit of extra oomph before sitting down in front of the camera. After a few more seconds' consideration, she came down in favor of the cam show idea. School was out and creative writing could wait until Monday. Which meant now she needed to go find her…

     'Message from: need2getslayed'

     Or maybe not. As much as she didn't want to, she knew that Buffy got on computers only slightly more often than Giles did and if the Slayer was messaging her, it was probably important. Sighing, Willow clicked on the new message window.

     3:40 PM need2getslayed: wills, we need u 2 come help out @ the library

     3:40 PM need2getslayed: the council heard about our try @ a demon database & told him 2 just connect 2 theirs

     3:41 PM need2getslayed: he has a page of instructions 4 'that infernal machine'

     3:41 PM need2getslayed: i tried 2 figure it out & went crosseyed

     3:41 PM need2getslayed: so help plz?

     Oh for the love of… she had left the school slightly over half an hour ago. Had he seriously not known that he'd need her help at that point? And if not… if these instructions had come in sometime in the past thirty minutes… where the heck was Miss Calendar and why couldn't Giles ask her for help? Especially since they had some sort of mutual awkward crush thing going on. It would be the perfect excuse to spend time together without actually having to come out and admit they wanted to spend time together. But no. Instead, Giles was telling Buffy and Buffy was nagging her. Sigh.

     3:42 PM TheLilRedTree: I was kinda working on something, Buffy. Is it really that urgent? Can I do it tomorrow or Monday?

     3:44 PM need2getslayed: i asked giles & he went all brit on me

     3:44 PM need2getslayed: i think it means no but i'm not sure

     3:45 PM TheLilRedTree: …fine. Give me a few minutes to get ready and I'll head out.

     3:45 PM need2getslayed: ur a lifesaver

     No, she just didn't want to deal with the explosion that would surely come if she dared respond with 'Sorry, I can't come help you right now, I'm about to hop on webcam and show off a bit for a twenty-five-year-old from Texas'. Willow sighed again and cycled through iChat's various windows, closing each until she found the one she was looking for.

     3:46 PM LilRedRdnHo: sorry but i need to give you a raincheck on that story

     3:46 PM LilRedRdnHo: friend just called and really needs my 'help with something' ;)

     3:46 PM LilRedRdnHo: bbiab

     Before he could reply, Willow closed the chat window and logged out of that particular screen name. Finding herself back in the window holding Buffy's messages, the redhead debated before firing off a parting shot and logging out. Because even if she was too nice for her own good and willing to sacrifice her plans for the afternoon and evening to help Buffy and Giles out, Willow just plain wasn't in the mood for fluff. And if Buffy didn't like it, then tough sh… cr… cookies.

     3:47 PM TheLilRedTree: BTW, I'm coming in what I'm wearing. And if you pick on it, I'll leave you to figure out Giles's computer problems on your own. Resolve face.



September 29, 2003:



     "I am not a moron!"

     "Remind us again why you're here, Harm?"

     "Because I… grr! It's not my fault. He tricked me!"

     "Yes, dear. Xander Harris managed to trick you. What does that say about your intelligence?"

     Exchanging a bemused look with Becki, Xander came to a stop outside the computer lab that Miss Calendar had agreed to let them use for the afternoon and peered through the window. Harmony and Cordelia were facing off in the middle of the room, the others scattered around the room in front of individual computers as they awaited his return. Stepping closer to her leader, Harmony batted away the hand that had just patted her on the head and poked Cordelia's chest. "Fine, Xander tricked me. And he like, destroyed you on that quiz, Cordy. The rest of the Cordettes didn't do so well either. So I'm sorry, if being outsmarted by him once makes me a moron, what does that make the rest of you?"

     Xander gestured for Becki to precede him and the brunette mouthed 'wuss' before doing so, bumping her hip against the door to open it before stumbling inside. "It makes you here to find out what you're wearing for Halloween. And what's going under what you're wearing, in a few cases." Conversation came to a halt as she and Xander walked over to the biggest empty space they could find, setting down their burdens. "Alright. I've got all the West End Games stuff my boyfriend was willing to part with, the Wizards' original D20, and the revised books that have come out so far. Which means-"

     Letting out a sharp whistle, Cordelia made a 'T' with her hands. "Woah, time out. Back all that up and start over. And this time, explain it like you're talking to people who aren't going to be living in their parents' basement when they're thirty years old."

     "What about living in your parents' basement when I'm thirty, Cordy?" Xander grinned, deciding to take one for the team to deflect the girl's attention away from Becki. "Your mom's a MILF. Stifler's mom has nothing on Miriam Chase. I'll even learn Spanish if that's an actual job requirement up at your place."

     The look he received from Cordelia in response could have peeled paint. "You are a sick, sick boy, Xander Harris."

     Grinning, Xander just shrugged it off. He held a decent amount of power over her for once - given she wanted his help with her costume, she couldn't just up and stomp off like she usually did when he managed to gain the upper hand in their little verbal spats - and by George, he was going to abuse it while he could. "Well you know what they say, Cordy: if you want to know what a girl's going to look like in twenty years, look at her mom. We all remember that outfit she wore when she dropped you off on the first day of freshman year. Why do you think so many boys here are interested in snagging you? Your scintillating wit?" Pausing, Xander cocked his head to the side. "Huh. 'Scintillating'. I know for a fact that I couldn't spell that if you offered me a hundred bucks, but for some reason I know what it means. I have got to stop spending so much time with Giles… for extra credit because why else would I be spending time in the library?"

     "You know what, I don't care if I need your help with this. Make one more joke like that and so help me God, I will bury this boot so far up your butt, you'll be tasting Gucci." Xander raised an eyebrow at Cordelia, spreading his arms in an invitation that she ignored, turning her attention back to Becki. "So, as I was asking before the pervert ran off with the conversation… can we have that in small, non-geeky words please?"

     Becki reached up to either rub the bridge of her nose or adjust her glasses, Xander wasn't quite sure. Given the annoyed sounding sigh that accompanied the motion, though, it was probably the former. Looking around the room, she gestured to the two piles of books in front of her. "In the interest of getting things moving… seven of us are dressing up for Halloween because we either volunteered or lost a bet. Only three of us even know what species we're going to be. And Cordy, Sia, Aura… what? Were you planning to mix the alien look with some Abercrombie & Fitch or something?" The looks she received in response made it clear to both her and Xander that none of them had thought that far ahead yet, although to be fair Xander hadn't thought that far ahead when it came to them either. Bringing in Becki to help him was looking like a better idea with each passing minute. "So some of us need to figure out 'what' we're going to be and then all of us need to figure out 'who' we're going to be. Which is where the books come into things. I have some cheat sheets about the different species that I can pass around, and then from there I thought maybe we could use the classes from the D20 system to give us ideas for our actual costumes."

     "If I wasn't pretty sure that even you could beat me up, I would kiss you right now." He'd had vague notions of using Becki's boyfriend's stash of role-playing books to help figure out who would be going as what species, but it had never even occurred to Xander that such a simple, core game mechanic might be of use to him. Turning back to the other, exceedingly confused looking girls, he took pity on them and explained. "Okay, I'm sure you've heard of Dungeons & Dragons even if you don't know anything about it, right?"

     "Paper and pencils and dice and geeks sitting around a table?"

     "…something like that, Nikki. Anyways, there's a Star Wars version. Made by the same people, even. In it, there are different 'classes', or jobs. Like Princess Leia? She's a Noble. Han is a Scoundrel. There are two classes for Jedi and even one for people with Force powers but who aren't Jedi, and then there are three or four other classes too. So what Becki's suggesting - and I think is a great idea - is that we put the names of the classes… these different jobs… into a hat. Then you all pass the hat around, pull slips, and use what you pull out as the start of your costume."

     The girls exchanged looks and Xander waited for someone, most likely Cordelia, to shoot the idea down. But surprisingly enough she just nodded in approval. "Well, we can't all be identical. Everyone knows you never want to wear the same thing to a party. This is a fair way of deciding who gets a cool costume and who doesn't. And it means I only have a one in seven chance of being stuck as the Skanky Dancer Girl or whatever it is you toss into the hat because you're a teenage boy and we all know what you think about." Xander opened his mouth to defend himself and then thought better of it. He'd been planning to use the classes straight from the book but if they were evidently expecting it, why not live up to their expectations and remove one of the real classes to open up a slot for 'Entertainer' or 'Dancer'? Then Cordelia frowned and switched topics with a speed that might have startled Xander if he wasn't used to deciphering Willow's rambling. "What about our 'what's, though? Becki, tell me you have something good in one of those books to give to someone else. I don't want to be the weirdest looking one in the group."

     Becki gave Xander an uncertain look at being addressed directly but when he waved her on - after all, she was doing good work so far - she pulled out a slim black three-ring binder covered in glow in the dark stars and held it up. "Well, um, my boyfriend and I both play but obviously he knows a lot more about Star Wars than I do. And I started getting tired of having to poke through all these books to know what kind of alien each person in the group was or what species it was that we were running into on an adventure, so I made a bunch of cheat sheets for myself and put them in one easy, alphabetized binder. So we can look through here and then after we find something that we like - and that Xander approves of, of course - I can show you where to find it in one of the real books so you can find out more about them. Cordy, I totally hear what you're saying but I don't think it'd be fair to give anyone a species that's really weird or creepy, since the costume would probably be beyond their ability to make in time." Cordelia pouted at that and Becki opened her binder, flicking from one page to the next. "Let's see, though. Our group has one Togruta so far - Cordy - and Sia's going as a Twi'lek. The Twi'lek have some very fluid pigment genes, meaning they come in all sorts of colors and patterns and there's no reason any two have to look alike, but let's save repeats for if we're absolutely desperate. Oh, and Xander, you mentioned a Mirialan?"

     "That would be Aura. That's as far as I'd gotten, though, because I hadn't really thought much further than beating Cordy - who has a special story behind her costume - and getting one of the others to be a Twi'lek." Wandering over to the printer, Xander opened the tray and removed a sheet of paper. Returning to Becki's side, he began folding it into thirds so he could tear it into roughly equal pieces. "So that means three down, four to go. And… I've got nothing. Becki?"

     Reaching the end of the book, Becki looked back and forth between it and a certain bottle blonde. "Okay, there's an easy one here, no pun intended. Does anyone here disagree when I say that Harm is the school skank?"

     "No."

     "No."

     "Nope."

     Huffing, Harmony raised her hand high. "Um, yeah. Me!"

     Becki just waved the girl's indignation off. "Oh shut up, Harm. You have a pink shirt with 'SLUT' in big silvery letters across the chest. You don't just know you're the school skank, you advertise it. So, speaking of pink and skanks…"

     Looking back up from what he was doing, Xander peered down at the page Becki was showing him. Then he grinned. "…we could do Harmony as a Zeltron. To quote a fictional Irishman whose product I don't go anywhere near because I'm not my father… brilliant!" After quickly checking the nine slips in front of him - it was good to be thorough, he decided, plus he might get lucky again between now and Halloween - Xander took pity on the non-Becki girls and explained. "Star Wars has a bunch of species that are called 'near-humans' that are pretty much what they sound like: they're groups of humans that settled planets that mutated them just enough that they're not pure human anymore, but not enough to make them count as real aliens. Stuff like having different skin colors or maybe little horns or pointy ears or something. Like Aura's Mirialans. Zeltrons are a species of pink-skinned near-humans who… well, the writers have created some science behind it to make it less perverted sounding, but they're pretty much a species of Harmonys. Pink space skanks. Which is why Becki thinks it'd be a good match."

     As Becki and Harmony began bickering about the latter's supposed - or actual - sluttiness, Xander looked around and frowned. They were missing… suddenly, the subject of his thoughts slipped through the door in a maroon one-piece bathing suit, a pair of sweatpants riding low on her hips as she toweled her hair dry. Then the smell hit him and Xander grimaced; why couldn't Mallory have been a few minutes later and taken the time to dash through a shower, too? "Hey, guys. Sorry I'm late; the coach is taking advantage of the fact that the boys' coach hasn't started practicing yet and is working us hard to try and chase off any girls who might bail under pressure this winter. What'd I miss?"

     "Ehh, not much." Not even looking up from where she was checking her email on one of the lab's computers, Nicole waved a hand in Harmony's general direction. "We're just talking about how Harm's a skank."

     Groaning, Mallory buried her face in her hands. "Oh God, did someone walk in on her in the locker room again?"

     Hands on her hips, Harmony scowled at the pint-sized brunette. "Why are you trying to make it seem like a common thing? That only happened the one time and-"

     "The one time this year. So far." Aphrodesia smirked as Harmony turned her scowl on the natural blonde, before continuing on to rub salt in the wound. "Plus there's still one more day left in September, and then all of October, all of November…"

     Leaning over, Aura wrapped a companionable arm around Harmony's shoulders. "Aww, c'mon girls, it could be worse. At least she's using the time to work on her cheerleading skills. Remember, Sia? 'Your whore! Want some more! Faster, harder, keep on thrusting! More, more, 'til we're both busting!'" All activity came to a halt as everyone turned to stare incredulously at the bright red Harmony. "What do you think, Cordy? I mean, obviously we can't use that one, but we should totally put her to work writing new cheers for us."

     Cordelia groaned and shook her head as she watched Harmony bat at Aura's hand before pulling away. "I'd make a comment about undiscovered depths but I'm pretty sure Harm's depths are all very well explored by now. And so moving on before I misplace the very tasty lunch currently occupying my stomach… since Xander approves, Harmony is now a pink skank. That leaves three of us. Well, three of you. I'm already set. Sadly."

     "Hmm. Let's see. I need to give someone a species weirder than Cordy's so she'll stop whining about how horrible she has it… and we just happen to have a swimmer among us." Not quite sure where Becki was going with her train of thought, Xander watched her flip backwards through the pages in her binder before stopping in the N section. Then he blinked. Did she honestly think Mallory would go for that? Evidently so, he discovered, or at least she was going to try. Whistling to get the brunette's attention, Becki held out the binder to Mallory. "What do you think?"

     Much like when Aphrodesia had found out about her impending Twi'lekdom, Xander could tell the exact moment when Mallory's eyes landed on the drawing of a male and female Nautolan in the bottom right corner of the page. "How about no? Unless Xander wants to order me to do it, in which case the answer is 'no', along with 'I unvolunteer'."

     Becki was immediately ready with a counteroffer, though. "Be a Nautolan for Halloween and not only will you get to meet my mystery boyfriend but the two of us will handle every last bit of your costume and you get free meals every time we need to meet."

     "Fine. I'll do it." Handing the binder back to Becki, Mallory shot the cheerleader an unreadable look. "What's in it for you, though? I'm not the only volunteer here; if Cordy's complaining really annoyed you that much, you could always leave the group too."

     Taking her binder back, Becki offered a shrug before passing it on to Nicole, who had finished playing on the computer and took it with a curious expression on her face. "Well, Joe and I were talking about going as our game characters this year for Halloween. So really, I was going to end up in a Star Wars costume anyways and this is all just a really fortunate coincidence that means I can stop by the Bronze to say hi before heading over to the party at UC Sunnydale and not stand out quite as much. As for your costume, Mal, Joe's been working on a Nautolan headpiece to sell but didn't finish it in time to market it to the same place as his other work. But I know he can finish it in time for Halloween, so getting you to agree means I'm making him happy by helping him bring his work to life and when Joe's happy, I'm happy. Oh, and speaking of his work and such, Cordy and Sia, make sure you get the address of that store in LA. They didn't actually buy his pieces from him outright; they're basically there on consignment and since he hasn't gotten paid, that means they should still be in the store. If they do sell between now and when you get there, we can figure out something else."

     Aha. Xander had been doing his best to help the girls come up with a method of creating the alien side of their respective costumes, only to have Cordelia and Aphrodesia abruptly inform him that they were set on that front. Now he knew why. Joe the Mystery Boyfriend. He shrugged; one less thing for him to worry about, especially if Becki was so sure it would come out well. "Hey, Xander?" Nicole was beckoning him over and, not having anything better to do, he moved to sit beside her, leaning in as she held the binder out between them. "Have you decided what you're going as? I remember you needed Cordelia's money so you could change costumes to match us. And I'm kinda curious because I figure if you're going to wear it… well, it can't be that bad. And I'll put up with them teasing me for looking like Mrs. Xander if it means I can get out of this without looking like an alien clownfish or something equally crazy."

     "Ah. Um, Chiss." Xander began flipping backwards through the pages until he found Becki's entry on the Unknown Regions' most infamous residents. "I wanted something different but easy. After I figure out a costume, I'm just going to draw some lines on my skin and get someone to paint from the lines outward so I'm blue everywhere that shows. Plus I'll need to dye my hair and… I'm not sure about the eyes yet, but I've got a month or so. What do you think?"

     Nibbling on her lower lip, Nikki stared at the image of the two Chiss for a moment before perking up and paging back a dozen more entries to something called a 'Bokan' that Xander wasn't sure actually existed in the Star Wars universe. Then again, he knew from an earlier conversation with Becki that her own costume - with his approval, of course - was going to be based off a homebrew aquatic species called a 'Melanoke' that she'd created with her boyfriend for their current campaign. So should he really be surprised that her personal sourcebook had other species unique to her and her friends? "What do you think of this? One box of black dye would probably take care of both of us, and we could use the same color of blue paint. We could figure out how to do the eyes together even if we need different colors, and unless my mom threw them out, I should still have a pair of wings just like that from last year's faerie princess costume."

     Xander thought about it for a minute before shrugging. Being able to share supplies with someone would cut down on the amount of money he'd need to wheedle out of Cordy, and might even solve another problem of his. "Are you going to volunteer to be my helper girl, then?" She gave him an odd look. "Remember? I told Cordelia I'd need help painting and dying myself? If we're going to go as a mostly matching pair, wouldn't it make sense for you to be the girl she 'picks' to help me?"

     "Oh. Yeah. Um, sure. I mean, it's not like I have a boyfriend or anything right now so there's nobody to get jealous… and I probably won't be able to get a boyfriend for a month or two so we're safe there. Need to let the rumor mill settle a bit before I try to put myself back on the market." Nicole smiled nervously as Xander shot her an odd look, but that quickly turned to astonishment. "You seriously don't know? Yeah, I'm currently single because… well, you know that whole clichéd redneck thing where the dad finds his daughter with some guy and chases him off with a shotgun?" Xander nodded slowly, wondering if this was going where he thought it was going. "Turns out my dad has some inner redneck, and he managed to find it after walking in on me and my ex-boyfriend having sex. Long story short, I'm now the single girl with the homicidal maniac father that everyone's scared to go near." Huffing, she crossed her arms over her chest. "I wasn't even being Harmony; we'd been dating for a few months. He had to know it would happen eventually."

     Not quite sure how to respond to that, Xander decided to head for safer ground: assigning the girls classes so they could begin figuring out their actual costumes. Rising from his spot beside Nikki, he returned to the no longer quite as clear stretch of table where he'd been working beside Becki. "Alright, before you end up getting lost in trying to find out more about your assigned species…" He trailed off, gesturing to the nine pieces of paper in front of him, each folded multiple times to ensure no ink showed through to hint at what class it contained. "Classes. Come and get 'em."

     Each girl took a step forward before pausing and retreating, allowing Cordelia to go first. The brunette nodded in satisfaction before approaching Xander and, after staring at the neatly folded papers for a moment, picking one at random. Unfolding it, she held it up for him to see. "What's a… 'Jedi Consular'?"

     Crud. How to explain that without making them seem really boring? Xander snapped his fingers as the perfect explanation came to him. "They're the Jedi who use their words first, then the Force, and then finally grab their lightsaber. Yoda was a Consular. So was, ironically enough, Shaak Ti. So I guess it was kinda fate that you grabbed that one."

     "I guess." Cordelia stared at the paper in her hand for a moment longer before shrugging and wandering off to sit down at a computer. "Could be worse. At least I'm not the alien clownfish dancing girl or something."

     Her muttered comment killed any remaining good mood in the room and the girls all stared at the pieces of paper in front of him warily. Finally Becki reached out, snatching one up and opening it before showing him what he'd written on it. Fringer. That would go well with her original species. That opened the floodgates and the others, not wanting to get stuck with something crappy, surged forwards and began snapping up whatever paper was closest to them. Aphrodesia's Tech Specialist made Xander wince - 'alien skankdom' with a side of geek; the poor girl just had the worst luck - while Harmony's Scoundrel made him snicker. Aura scowled her way through showing off the Entertainer slip, Nicole was left pondering her Soldier slip, and Mallory ended up pulling the companion to Cordelia's slip: Jedi Guardian.

     Xander quickly scribbled down a list of everyone's name, species, and class before turning to Becki and tapping the end of his pen against one line. "You help her, since she's your pet project anyways, and then maybe Aura because I'm afraid to go near her right now? I'll get Cordy and Nikki, and then we can split Sia and Harm depending on who finishes first?"

     "Sounds good to me." Shooting a look over at Cordelia, Becki grinned. "Hope you have a good idea for Cordelia, though; she was actually glad you said she could be any Togruta instead of having to be Shaak Ti because she thinks the Jedi have horrible taste in fashion."

     Great.
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