A/N: I own nothing, except a 2001 Mazda Tribute. It is not the greatest car in the world, it is just a Tribute. Buffy bits owned by the spirit of Joss Whedon's rage, Marvel bits owned by Walt Disney's frozen head.
"Just the juvenile delinquent I've been looking for."
Successfully avoiding the trollish principal, not quite so much. Xander and Willow watched as Buffy tried to squirm her way out of the assignment, but was unsuccessful. But just as they started to feel smug at escaping the same fate, sharing a look of triumph, they looked back to find pens being presented to them as well.
"I can't believe this. We have to get dressed up and the whole deal?" Xander was fighting his fate. Trapped in the evil plots of a half-sized trollish villain.
"Snyder said costumes were mandatory." Willow, in contrast, seemed resigned to the whole thing. Not like she would yell and scream if she did have an issue.
Buffy moped, "Great. I was gonna stay in and veg. The one night a year things are supposed to be quiet for me."
"Halloween quiet? Oh, I figured it'd be a big old vamp scare-a-palooza," Xander said.
"Not according to Giles. He swears that tomorrow night is, like, dead for the undead. They stay in," Buffy clarified.
"Those whacky vampires! That's why I love 'em! They just keep you guessing!" Xander dropped off his bag and swung back around to the vending machine to score a soda.
The traitorous contraption failed to deliver. He pushed his selection again, still nothing. He tried something different, more nothing, and then, wonder of wonders, Larry "Brow Ridge" Blaisdell appeared instead of his sugary goodness. The opposite of sweet. Possibly also carbonated, though.
"Harris," spake the missing link.
"Hey, Lar. You're looking cro-mag, as usual. What can I do you for?" Xander played it casual, but couldn't help voicing his thought about him being the missing link.
Larry went on about Buffy, wondering if she was dating Xander or if she would date the Larripithecus.
"Why not? I heard some guys say she was fast," Larry had the nerve to spew out.
Something fierce sat up in Xander's heart. "I hope you mean like the wind."
"Yeah, you know what I mean," was Larry's learing rejoinder.
"Hey, that's my friend you're talking about!" Xander felt the pack leader spirit stir.
"Oh, yeah? Well, what're you gonna do about it?" Larry looked, not like he was spoiling for a fight, but like he was impressed by this unexpected turn of aggression Xander was showing.
Xander was slightly wigged, but no way was he backing down. He felt figurative hackles rizing. You don't mess with the hackles.
"I'm gonna do what any man would do about it: somethin' damn manly." Xander grabbed Larry by the front of his shirt.
Larry smirked, and smacked Xander's hands away, taking a handful of Xander's shirt in turn and raising his fist to strike, looking mildly regretful. Xander winced his eyes closed and braced for impact.
An impact which never landed. He opened his eyes again as he felt his shirt released, nearly simultaneous with a crashing sound as Buffy faceplanted Larry into the vending machine.
Traitorous contraption responded by delivering a Diet Dr. Pepper.
"Get gone," Buffy growled, and Larry beat feet out of there. "Ooh, diet!" Buffy cooed at her tribute.
Xander felt Hyena's feeling of satisfaction, that one of his pack queens did her duty by him, but Xander himself was wounded deep in his testosterone zone.
"Do you know what you just did?" Xander demanded, stuffing his inner beast back into its box.
"Saved a dollar?" Buffy appeared unaware of having stolen his thunder as she opened her Diet Dr. Pepper.
"No, but Larry was about to pummel me!" He let his outrage build, to get past the wiggins from his interaction with Larry. If he didn't know better, he would have thought Larry had enjoyed their little exchange on a non-bully-victim level, but something... different.
"Oh, that? Forget about it!" She turned back to the table she and Willow had claimed.
Xander followed her and solidified his case. "Oh, I'll forget about it. In maybe fifteen, twenty years when my rep for being a sissy man finally fades!" He was definitely no sissy man! Especially after the look Larry might or might not have been giving him, that he might or might not have felt some kind of response to, not that there was anything wrong with that sort of thing, but it wasn't that kind of response.
"Xander, don't you think you're being--"
"A black eye heals, Buffy," he informed her, especially since he was being... "But cowardice has an unlimited shelf life. Oh, Thanks! Thanks a lot for your
help." He re-acquired his bag and stalked off.
Xander spent too much time going through the superhero costumes, despite them being way more than he could afford. Xander stifled some inclement language as he watched his neighbor's rug rat take the last gun from the cheap bin at Ethan's Costume Emporium. Stupid neighbor kid! There went his whole soldier-costume-on-the-cheap plan for defeating the machinations of Principal Snyder!
This would take some re-thinkage. He would have to go back into his thinking place and get his thinkage on.
He went back to the accessories section in search of inspiration. There had been a bunch of things that had twigged little imagine spots when he looked at them the first time, but he was focused on the soldier costume that was no longer to be.
There were Star Trek communicators, Star Wars lightsabers, Lord of the Rings rings, pirate eye patches, X-Men belt buckles, and almost hidden to one side, the item that had caught his fancy earlier, save for the price.
Before him in the display case sat a ring of LEDs, with a larger light in the middle. Xander had recognized it instantly, and was immediately covetous, until he noticed the price tag below and to the right. It would put him well outside his $5 budget, and start digging heavily into his road trip fund. He was resisting strongly, reminding himself that this was at the behest of that Troll-In-Chief, Snyder, when his thoughts were interrupted.
"Impressive, isn't it?" shmoozed a British voice, reminding him of Giles and yet not.
"Awesome, in fact," he replied, looking up to make eye contact with the speaker, finding a respectable looking man approaching middle age. "But way beyond my price range."
"Nonsense," came the rejoinder. "I'm sure we can work something out. It's much better to lose a small amount of profit than to have none whatsoever."
Xander did his level best to haggle, and managed to bring the price down by half, which was almost within not-too-bad. Calling it a success, he settled on that price, and vowed to work some extra hours at his after school job to make it up.
Feeling pleased with himself, he looked around for his fellow volunteers, or voluntolds in their case.
"...you've got it in you, Will," Buffy was saying. "You're just scared--"
"Hey Xander," Willow cut in, spotting him, and clearly eager to embrace the distraction. "What'd you get?"
He reached into the bag to pull out the LED set, which either would twig the same associations with Willow or would be totally meaningless. He raised an interrogative eyebrow at her.
She looked like something was going on behind her eyes, but Buffy responded right away with "That's not a costume."
"I've got a few other items to make it complete at home. Call me the twenty dollar costume king, baby." He was strangely reluctant to give details.
"Hey, Xander, about this morning. I'm really sorry--" Buffy started.
"Do you mind, Buffy? I'm trying to repress," he told her, having almost blocked the memory already.
She leaned her head on his shoulder and plied the cursed puppy-dog eyes. "I promise I'll let you get pummeled from now on."
Must... resist... puppy... eyes...
Xander succumbed with a sigh. "Thank you." Prepared to move on, he started to shore up his position with, "Okay, actually, I think I could have--" but she went all Attention Deficit Ooh Shiny and started drifting, iron-filing-to-magnet like, toward a pink confectionery of a princess ball gown dress. "Hello? That was our touching reconciliation moment there," he informed her, chagrined.
"Sorry..." she breathed, clearly in the thing's thrall. "It's just... look at that." Willow followed her rapt gaze, and nodded to herself. Xander felt this meant Buffy and Willow had some sort of imagine spot of their own revolving around such things, though he couldn't imagine the whatness or howfor of it all.
Willow and Xander followed in magnet-Buffy's wake, sharing looks of mingled apprehension, as Buffy drew closer to the monstrousity. Willow conceded that it was amazing, which set off Xander's senses, somehow.
"Too bulky," Xander pronounced, looking to its combat effectiveness, noting the bustle and tight bodice and many-layered trains, and wondering where he had picked up such terminology. "I prefer my women in Spandex. Or armour," he finished, thinking of various comic book heroines who would do a much better job of defending their Alpha, realizing the Hyena primal spirit had coloured his thought-in-progress again. Maybe he should have had Giles look into things after the whole zoo incident...
Buffy's gesture toward the confectionery was interrupted by the appearance of the proper and highly British proprietor, whom Xander had met when acquiring his gear.
"Please. Let me," Owner-Man, or perhaps Ethan, judging by the name of the establishment, interrupted.
Buffy, still in the grip of whatever compulsion the thing was exerting, started a gush with, "It's--" but was cut off.
"Magnificent, yes, I know," shmoozed the owner in full sales-monkey mode. He draped the garment across Buffy in front of the mirror. "My," he purred, "meet the hidden princess."
Xander stared at the proprietor, suddenly untrusting. Willow stared at the expression on Buffy's face, clearly hoping things were going her friend's way. Buffy stared at her reflection, still spell-caught by the frilly flummery.
"I think we've made a match, don't you?" Ethan queried, clearly pleased.
Buffy, on the other hand, had glimpsed the price tag, or her fashionista skills had clued her in to the potential cost. "I'm sorry," she started, defeat hinted in her tone, "There's no way I can afford this." She looked downfallen, but Xander detected a hint of artifice and dissemble in her demeanor. A lesser version of the puppy dog eyes she had just devastated him with, probably.
"Nonsense. I feel quite... moved... to make you a deal you can't refuse," was Owner Ethan's rejoinder. Xander, observing from the periphery, as was his wont, noted the hesitation on Moved. Was this Ethan responding to the cues Buffy was lathering on with a trowel? It seemed likely, and less to do with the sales-mode Xander had assumed earlier. This Ethan would bear watching, clearly. Buffy was definitely sold, though.
"At least make it yours, though," Xander offered. He was feeling slightly of the wig. Something was hinky in this sitch, but he couldn't put his finger on what. He noted her eye-roll in the mirror, but added, "ye olde random noblefem won't catch Captain Hairgel's eye," having an inkling as to what might have inspired the antique obsession.
He noticed Willow's approving surprise with the corner of his eye, focusing on Mirror-Buffy's dawning realization that he had a point of some kind. He might have to push it a step further in the right direction.
"Sure, any male-based dude is going to notice the pretty, pretty confectionery, but you want him to be focused on the whole Buffiness of the thing, while he's at it, right? Otherwise, what's the point?" It wouldn't get her to change her mind utterly, but maybe she would be a bit circumspect about it.
Having planted what seeds he could, he watched that percolate through their faces, and affected an uncaring mien to lock it in place. Hopefully the right place, but what did he know? This was all guess-work and shadows.
He turned away to let it ferment, and thus missed whatever reaction they might have had.