FIC: Hellmouth Heroes (2/?)
30th October 1997
“Hero City, oh yes, this place will definitely do.”
Ethan smirked as he surveyed his store. It was a three storied warehouse on the edge of Sunnydale, columns upon columns of garishly coloured costumes racked in alphabetical order. The first floor was ‘Heroes’, the second was ‘Villains’, and third ‘Generic Characters’, alien races, SHIELD agents, and the like.
It was a far grander store than he’d originally envisaged for this little escapade. A month ago, an as yet unknown caller had got in touch with him and offered an irresistible deal. If he simply agreed to use only Marvel Comics costumes and to hire them out for just a dollar, his mystery benefactor would give him all the money he needed for his trick and a hefty sum besides.
All he had to do now was worry and hope that people would come. He chuckled. Not that there was much chance they wouldn’t, the string of ‘mysterious accidents’ that had blighted his competition would see to that.
* * *
“Oh you’ll see Mr. Harris, you and the rest of your reprobates think you’re so clever!” Snyder sniffed. “If there’s trouble around here, I always find either you or Miss Lehane at the bottom of it. Well let’s see if you’re laughing when you’re minding some elementary children as they trick ‘n’ treat tonight.”
“Oh sir, you can’t-,” Xander began.
“Hah!” The pint-sized principal laughed. “You’re labouring under the mistaken belief that this is a democracy. You will do as you’re told!”
Gunn chuckled. He liked the kids, he really did, and they readily accepted into their group, although he didn’t like how Alonna flirted with Jonathan. Seeing Xander getting the grin wiped off his face was entertaining though.
Snyder spun from berating Xander and his gang to glare at him. “If you think this is such a laughing matter, you can join them Mr. Gunn!” Gunn’s mouth opened. “No arguments or it’s a week’s detention young man!”
“Oh man,” Gunn moaned.
* * *
“What are we doing tonight?” asked Francis as he readied himself for from a day teaching 2nd grade.
“It’s Halloween, I was thinking we could dress up and walk around town,” Harriet suggested.
“Are you crazy?” Francis paused unfastening his tie to stare at her. “Remember this is the Hellmouth!”
”And remember tonight is Halloween,” Harriet retorted. “It’s a demon holy day, most of them rest today. Besides,” Harriet picked a piece of paper off the kitchen table and passed it to him, “they’ve got an introductory offer.”
Doyle stared at the flyer. “’Hero-City’, any costume rented for a dollar. Opening night offer.” Doyle looked towards her and grinned. “I’ve always wanted to play ‘ravish the super-heroine’.”
Harriet grinned back at him. “You never know your luck.”
“Ah lass,” Francis smiled devilishly. “Ever since I met you it’s been good.”
* * *
“A Halloween ball?” Kate stared in disbelief at the memorandum and then at the clerk passing around the mail. “How old are we? Eight?”
“I’d place a bet that you’re not a day over twenty-eight,” rejoined the tubby office worker.
Kate eye-balled the civilian. “I’m twenty-six,” she retorted. “And there’s no way I’m going to this fiasco!”
“Note the word ‘mandatory’,” the clerk pointed at the paper. “By order of the chief. It’s meant to build team morale. Every one not on duty is to attend.” The man beamed. “Have you got a date?”
Once again Kate found herself eyeballing the possibly learning-challenged clerk. “I’m going stag.” Kate sighed as the affronted man waddled off. It looked like she’d have to get a costume.
* * *
Wood sighed as he strode into his apartment lounge, the day having seemingly gone forever. He groaned at the teen pop music blaring out from the potentials’ shared room. He’d tell them to turn it down, but they’d probably not listen. They were developing far too much of an insubordinate attitude.
Doubtless they were spending far too much time with the Slayer and her rowdy friends. Wood shook his head. Faith was a deliciously wanton creature, but far too wild for the responsibilities thrust upon her. It amazed him just why Giles, Pryce was an utter wimp but Giles had a dark past and steely backbone, didn’t pull her into line.
His behind had barely touched couch when the door crashed open and Kennedy ran in, her fellow potentials following behind. “Are we gonna get some costumes? Are we, there’s a new store in town, a dollar a costume!”
Wood opened his mouth to tell the potentials no. Then he recalled the damn school ball and that he hadn’t got a costume. “Grab your coats.”
* * *
“A costume ball!” Giles shook his head. “This is blo-.” Suddenly mindful of Jenny’s presence he altered what he’d been about to say. Besides, if he cursed in front of Wesley, the prat would only have an attack of the vapours. “I’m not going!”
“Oh don’t be such a grouch,” Jenny scolded. “It’ll be fun.”
“Seeing Snyder’s ugly mug outside of school hours is never fun.” Giles half-smiled. “Seeing it in school hours isn’t any pleasure cruise either.”
”And what about seeing mine?” Jenny demanded.
“Seeing yours is always a delight,” he hurriedly added.
Jenny smirked as she rose, long skirt swishing at the motion. “Then it’s settled. We’re going.” Jenny’s smile softened. “Cheer up Rupert, it’ll be fun.”
“Oh aye, spending a night with people I barely tolerate during the day is going to be a barrel of laughs.”
Jenny’s face stiffened. “Your idea of a good time is watching that awful cricket!” she scolded.
”Better than your sissified version of rugger!” he retorted. Insult his national pastime would she?
“Well we’re going out, and that’s final.” Jenny snapped. “Now get your coat, we’re going to get our costumes!”
“I might be going, but I’m going as I am!” Giles resisted as best as he could.
”What a stick in the mud!” Jenny’s dark eyes flashed as she strode for the library’s double-doors. “I’ll get you your costume and you will wear it!”
Wes took one look at his thunderous face and leapt to his feet. “I’ll come with you Ms. Calender!”
“Chicken,” Giles muttered before sighing. He knew no matter his resolve, he would undoubtedly wear whatever the techno-pagan brought back with her. He just hoped she’d calmed down by the time she reached the shop, otherwise this could be very humiliating.
* * *
Alonna stopped as she exited the school to see Xander sat on one of the benches by the parking lot. “Hey!” she greeted as she strode over to the youth.
The Sunnydaler started at her shout, twisting at the waist to look in her direction. “Hey.”
Alonna’s curiosity grew as she noted the comparative lack of life in the young man’s reply. “Where are the others?” she asked as she dropped onto the bench beside her friend.
Xander shrugged. “They’ve headed to the costume shop.”
“Oh?” Alonna’s puzzlement deepened. “I’d have thought a comic book geek like you would have been the first to grab a costume from that place?”
Xander half-smiled. “I’m a G.I. Joe geek too. A pair of army fatigues and a water pistol will do me fine.”
Oh, Alonna got it now. The pained embarrassment in Xander’s smile was like a light-bulb flicking on. In the three months since she and her brother had arrived in Sunnydale, she’d suspected there was something dark lurking under Xander’s jester appearance. The too loud laughter, the constant wisecracks, and the occasional flashes of temper. Either he was from a neglectful family or an abusive one. “Yeah,” Alonna decided to bait a trap, “that’s a shame.” She shook her head and pouted. “Almost criminal.”
Xander’s brow furrowed. “What’s almost criminal?”
Alonna hid a smile as Xander snatched up her snare. “Haven’t you heard? Hero-City have an opening day deal, a dollar a costume. Seems dumb to go to the trouble of making costumes when you can pick one up for that little.”
“Yeah it does,” Xander agreed, a brief smile flickering on his lips only to quickly die. “Only trouble is the best costumes will probably be taken now.”
”There’s only one thing to do.” Alonna glanced over her shoulder to see a smiling Ms. Calender stood there, Giles’ assistant Watcher and librarian lurking behind the computer teacher, “accept a lift from me.”
”You’ll give us a lift there?” Xander asked.
“I will if you help me pick an appropriate costume for Mr. Giles,” Jenny replied.
“You’ve got a deal,” her friend beamed.
* * *
“Wow,” Xander gasped as he entered the costume shop. Despite the store’s vastness it seemed almost cramped, thanks to the apparently endless columns of multi-coloured costumes. Mesmerised by the variety, he started in, bumping into someone on their way out. “Oh sorr-,” his voice trailed off as he registered the other person’s identity. “Hi Oliver.” His eyes alighted on the costume in his former friend’s arms. “Ghost Rider?”
The stare that Oliver returned his way was hostile to say the least. “Might as well.”
With that, the older man was past him and out of the shop. Xander turned to follow him. “Wait,” he reluctantly turned back at Ms. Calendar’s hand on his shoulder. “Xander,” the teacher’s luminous eyes were filled with compassion, “until you’re both able to accept Buffy’s death wasn’t either of your faults, you’ll never be friends.”
“Greetings one and all.” Xander turned at the voice behind him. The speaker was a guy about G-Man’s age, with slicked back black hair, a creased face, and lithe physique. The way the man was looking at Jenny, if he was Giles he’d be compelled to stomp a mud hole in his ass. “Welcome to my fledgling store. All costumes are organised alphabetically with the women’s costumes to the left and the men’s to the right. The floor signs indicate who’s were, on every costume there is a card briefly explaining a character’s powers and history.”
”Yeah,” Xander stepped between the oily shop-owner and Ms. Calendar. “And the dollar a costume deal?”
“An opening night offer,” the businessman confirmed. “Make your choices and enjoy.”
“Creepy,” Xander muttered as the middle-aged man moved off to leer at\greet Harmony and Aura.
“He was rather,” Jenny smiled. “Giles is right about you, a gallant over-protector.” The computer teacher giggled at his blush. “Now, about Giles’ costume?”
Xander nodded. “Four characters would be ideal. There’s Doctor Strange, the world’s greatest sorcerer. Professor Xavier, like Giles he’s mentor to a group of teens in his comic as well as being the world’s greatest telepath. Or Hellstorm, the world’s premier occultist and son of hell. Or they’ve got a version of Merlin.”
“Thank you, Xander, you’ve given me somewhere to look.” Xander smiled before walking over to the ladies costumes side of the shop, Alonna following.
”Master Harris,” Xander looked towards Wesley. “If I might trouble you for some assistance, perhaps you could help me with some British super-heroes? One must remain patriotic.”
“Um sure, Wes,” Xander thought for a second, pleased and yet embarrassed to be the one everyone turned to for advice, even in something as trivial as picking a costume. “Well there’s the Black Knight, a skilled swordsman and warrior. There’s Captain Britain, he’s about the strongest of Britain’s heroes, super-strong, able to fly, the works. Doctor Druid is a magician, although not the match of Strange of course. And then there’s Union Jack, who’s a lot like your version of Captain America, except without the Shield.”
“Ah,” Wesley nodded. “Thank you very much, Mr. Harris. I’ll investigate.”
“Xander,” Xander sidestepped as Wood walked in, the three potentials almost burying him in a stampede into the shop. “As it seems you’re the expert, would you help me with a costume.”
“Sure,” Xander hid his dislike as he stared at the black man. There was something insufferably smug about the third Watcher that just irritated the hell out of him. He didn’t much like the way he looked at Faith either. “What are you after?”
“A black super-hero would be my preference.”
“Well you’ve got Bishop, the first black X-Man, his power enables him to absorb all energy that are directed towards him and release that energy through his hands. There’s Blade who’s part-human, part vampire, but all bad-ass-.”
“I don’t fancy even pretending to be part vampire.” Wood commented.
”Yeah,” Xander nodded, “don’t blame you. There’s Brother Voodo-.” Wood shook his head. “Okay, there’s War Machine, the best friend of Tony Stark who used the Iron Man armour when Tony Stark was unable. Then there’s Battlestar, a former assistant of Captain America who had super powers. Of course there’s Luke Cage, he underwent experiments while in prison that turned him into a super-hero, super-strong, durable, and increased healing. Then there’s the Black Panther. In addition to being the king of his own country, he’s super-strong, super-fast, acute senses, and has a genius level intellect.”
“King of his own county, I like the sound of that.”
Xander shook his head as the African-American strode off. “Colour me unsurprised.”
* * *
Gunn grinned as he stopped by a rack and saw the costume of a super-hero he’d grown up idolising. “That’s just perfect.” He glanced towards Jonathan and Oz. “Got yours, guys?”
“I’m going as Wolverine,” Jonathan replied.
“Daredevil,” was the one word reply from the taciturn rock guitarist.
“Hey,” Gunn turned at his sister’s voice behind him. Alonna’s eyes sparkled as she recognised his costume. “Luke Cage, typical!”
“You can talk, Storm,” he rejoined before glancing at his sister’s companions. “What are you ladies going as?”
“She-Hulk,” Cordy replied.
“I like strong women,” Gunn chuckled before looking towards Amy. “Black Widow?”
”I always liked spy movies,” the witch replied.
* * *
“Gee Faith, I don’t know.”
”Hey Red,” Faith picked up the leopard-skin bikini and pushed it into the apprentice witch’s hands. “You want Oz to notice ya, right? This outfit will do it for ya. “Sides,” Faith winked at the shy teen, “Shana’s a red-head like ya.”
“And I’m sure she’d look delightful in it, there’s a changing room in the back if you wish to try it on.”
“No,” Faith turned to face the shop owner. He was a real slime-ball, kinda reminded her of mom’s old boy-friends, and Sir. Galahads they weren’t. She wouldn’t be at all surprised to find hidden cameras in the changing rooms. “We’re five by five.”
”Of course you are my dear.”
The moment the man moved off to creep out some other woman, Faith saw someone from school. “Hey, come on Red.”
* * *
”Found ya costume yet?”
Tara started as she turned to face the denim clad girl staring intently at her. “I…I was going to go as Mockingbird, b…but i…if you want it-.”
“No,” the sultry brunette shook her head. “I’m good, just interested. Ya’re Tara, right? I’m Faith, this is Willow. I’ve seen ya at school ”
“H…hi,” she stuttered. The brunette hadn’t needed to introduce herself, Tara knew her, heck everyone at Sunnydale High knew her.
“Yeah,” the breath-taking beauty actually smiled at her, Tara felt her knees almost give under her, “so I was thinking you could maybe join me and my buds as we walk some kids as they go trick a treatin’. It’ll be a pain in the ass, but we’ll probably go for some drinks at the Bronze afterwards.”
“Y…you w..want m…me,” Faith, the hottest girl in school, actually wanted to hang with her?
“Sure, why not?” Faith’s grin widened. “It’ll be fun, I see you around, you’re always on your own, my gang are kinda the outcasts, if ya wanna?”
“Sure,” Tara beamed. Her first for real friends. She’d have to check with her mom, mom was jumpy sometimes after they’d run away from home this summer, but it should be okay, mom was always encouraging her to mix more.
“See ya at the library, ‘bout six-thirty?” Faith suggested.
“Y…you hang at the library?” Tara gaped. If there was one place she’d never expect the wild beauty to hang out it was the library.
Faith’s snub nose wrinkled delightfully. “My guardian’s assistant librarian, ‘sides him and his boss are on the level.”
* * *
“This store is so cool!” Vi enthused. “Who are you two going as?”
“Aurora!” Rona held up the costume. “I wanted to go as Storm, but Alonna got there first. So I picked this one, it would be fun to fly!”
“Firebird,” Kennedy replied. “I was after Jean Grey, but she’s gone so I figured it would be cool to be able to smoke a vampire with just a gesture.”
”I’m going as Jubilee!” Vi giggled. “This is so cool!”
* * *
Xander scowled as he strode through the store. His earlier elation was dwindling as his search continued. For some weird reason there was only one costume of every character, and many of his favourites – Captain America, Spiderman, Iron Man, and the Human Torch had been taken. He’d considered but rejected Cyclops, let’s face it Scott Summers was a horse’s ass, and the Silver Surfer, way too serious.
Xander stopped. His eyes narrowed as he noticed a black t-shirt with a white skull embossed on the front. “Frank Castle, the Punisher,” Xander muttered. The scourge of the Mafia. Despite not having any powers, no one messed with the Punisher. Not like Xand-.
Shoving that troubling thought aside, Xander grabbed the T-Shirt, fatigue pants, and small arsenal. It was going to be a fun night.