Setting: S2, pre-series
Rating: PG (for now, will change to R later)
Word Count: 1800
Summary: Early S2. Ethan Rayne opens his costume shop a few weeks earlier than in canon. This time, his cursed costume sends Buffy, who has yet to deal with Parent-Teacher night (and a certain vampire), on a journey through time.
A/N: I finished this story quite some time ago but have been putting off posting. I'm sorry to say it doesn't much fit this round's theme. Rather, I was giving myself a deadline so I had to start posting. It's quite a long story, ~150,000 words, and I'll continue posting to the usual places (AO3, ff.net, and Elysian Fields). Thanks to stallwartsandall and MiseEnPlace for the very helpful beta work! I revise somewhat obsessively, sometimes adding new mistakes after beta-ing, so if you catch anything lmk.
Transilience: An abrupt change or variation; leaping from one thing or state to another.
When Ethan Rayne opened his shop doors bright and early that Saturday morning in mid-September, he didn't have any specific schemes ready to set into motion. That wasn't to say he didn't have any at all, oh no – he had plots and plans galore. It was just that, as the Sunnydalians who'd been clustered on the sidewalk outside began to filter in and look around, he didn't know which of his plans would come to fruition. A devotee of Chaos, Ethan was more aware than most that laying out a course of action and then following it to the letter was a hopeful endeavour at best. The universe didn't give two figs about anyone's plans. It thrived on anarchy, and those who understood that and were ready to grab opportunities as they arose made for the best architects of chaos.
It didn't mean he hadn't put any effort into plotting his old friend's downfall, either. Preparation was a key ingredient for success. The point of the matter was that, unlike your average aspiring dark wizard, Ethan understood flexibility and opportunism were equally key.
The greater part of his brain mulling potentialities, Ethan greeted the browsing shoppers with his best charming shopkeeper persona, making a helpful suggestion here, putting a minor curse into action there, all the while hopeful the one scenario into which he'd put the most effort would be the one to come to pass. It was a delightful bit of skullduggery, if he did say so himself.
As morning lazed into afternoon, the initial curious rush dwindling to a few stragglers, Ethan tallied up his sales in the ledger next to the cash register with one ear attuned to the doorway. He'd left the door standing open all morning, inviting in the cool morning air along with the shoppers, and now he debated whether to close it to the afternoon's heat. None of his primary targets had been amongst the morning's clientele, but he wasn't concerned. His initial investigations suggested they weren't given to early mornings. And if they didn't come in today, there was always tomorrow, or the weekend after.
Half an hour later, his patience was rewarded as one of the voices he recognized from his previous lurking about Sunnydale sounded right outside the doorway.
"Eh, I'm not really on the bandwagon yet, Willow," the voice was saying. "It's too far away to get all excited about it. And I gotta say, Halloween loses some of its charm when you spend your nights whaling on real monsters. Ol' punch mouth? Enough to put me off Halloween for a decade at least."
"You're trying to tell me that you – Buffy Summers, shopper extraordinaire – can resist checking out a brand new shop? Come on, let's just take a quick peek. See if they have any cool costumes."
"Since you're so very obviously hyped about it."
"I'm all about the free candy!"
This last was said from just inside the shop's doorway. Ethan busied himself needlessly rearranging a display, feigning nonchalance at the two girls' entrance. He allowed them some time to look around, anticipatory shivers skittering up his spine as he wondered which, if any, of the displayed wares would catch their eye. So many possibilities, even if they didn't go for his favorite.
"Oh, Buffy! Did you see this dress?"
Ethan smiled darkly.
"Well, that's not at all creepy," Buffy muttered, gaze fixed on the display her friend had pointed out to her.
He sidled up to the two girls, oozing charm. "May I help you ladies?"
Buffy looked at him askance. "Why is your mannequin wearing my face?"
Ethan turned to the mannequin, eyeing it with studious consideration while the two girls did the same. "I do see the resemblance, I suppose, now that you mention it." He'd chosen that particular mannequin precisely for its resemblance to the Slayer, not that he'd share that little tidbit with the girls. Instead he shrugged, and gestured to nearby mannequins, all of which appeared more lifelike than typical store dummies. "They came with the shop. I thought they added a touch of personality, although I can see how you might find it less whimsical," he said with a small chuckle.
The little redhead, Willow, fingered the soft sleeve of the traveling dress with reverence. "It's sooooo pretty."
"You should try it on, Wills," Buffy said, smiling at her friend.
"If I may," said Ethan. He moved behind Willow and gently turned her by the shoulders to face a nearby display of a similar dress, but in deep, emerald green. "This color would be more suited to your complexion, while the other," he said, gesturing to the pale cream and rose, "is more suited to your friend."
The two girls looked between the dresses and each other, hesitant.
"Go ahead and try them on," he said, careful to keep his tone light. "No pressure whatsoever. Think of it as a bit of fun." He paused, and cocked his head as though a thought had just occurred to him. "If you'd allow me to take your photo once you're in costume, it would make for a splendid advertisement. I'd be ever so grateful – in fact, I'd even pay you for the honor."
Willow beamed. "What do you say, Buffy?" she said, clearly the more interested of the two. "Wanna get our Pretty Woman on?"
Buffy looked the cream and rose dress up and down. "Pretty Old-fashioned Woman." She turned to Ethan, pert nose wrinkled. "What time period are these from?"
"I'm no historian, but I believe the Victorian era. If you'd rather model something a little more modern…" He would much prefer the Slayer to choose the Victorian traveling dress, but all that truly mattered was that she'd entered the shop of her own accord, without him having to lure her in. If this particular scenario didn't play out, he had contingency upon contingency ready to go. "Perhaps the Swinging Sixties are more your style? I'm afraid I only have one go-go dress in stock, which means the pair of you wouldn't be a matched set."
Willow made a disappointed noise, and Buffy gave her friend a fond smile. "Looks like Willow's got her heart set on corsets for some reason. You said something about paying us to model?"
"How does fifty dollars apiece sound?"
Their eyes went wide.
"Like that new pair of strappy sandals Mom wouldn't buy me," Buffy said with a grin.
Ethan rubbed his hands together, unable to contain his enthusiasm. "Splendid."
After sending the two girls to the changing room with their respective dresses and appropriate undergarments – for a more authentic experience, he'd assured them – along with an informational sheet on how to put on the undergarments and the corsets, Ethan returned to the counter and dug out his dusty old Nikon. It wouldn't hurt to take a photo or two as souvenir. After all, it wasn't every day his machinations machinated so perfectly – almost as if the universe was in accord with him on this particular plan.
From the other side of the store, he could hear the girls alternately giggling and griping about the corsets, and he smiled with deep satisfaction. He wasn't sure whether the Slayer needed to be wearing all the clothing in the outfit, or if only the dress would suffice, but it seemed he wouldn't have to find out. Lady Luck was dealing him every ace in the deck today.
Ethan wended his way toward the changing room, silently promising the gods he served an extra offering in gratitude for his good fortune. "Do you need any assistance?" he called out.
Buffy poked her head around the curtain. "Are there shoes to go with the dresses? If we're going for authentic for your photo shoot."
"Of course," he said, mentally reproaching himself for forgetting that little detail. "I have a couple of different sizes, so we should be able to find something that fits."
It wasn't much longer before the two girls picked their way to the front of the store, giggling with each step as their modest bustles and trains swished behind them. Ethan helped them put their hair up in simple twists and affix the respective matching hats with pins, and then posed them on the sidewalk in front of the store. "Don't you both look lovely," he said, truly meaning it. "You'd be the toast of society in those dresses."
The girls blushed and smiled, and he snapped several photos before saying, "Handbags. You should have handbags. Wait right here."
Ethan stepped inside and retrieved the embroidered reticule he'd prepared just for the Slayer.
"So how Pride and Prejudice are we in these outfits?" Buffy was saying when he returned to their side.
"Not very," said Willow. "That was set in the Georgian era, I think. These are Victorian."
Buffy gazed blankly at her friend. "Is that before or after, history-wise?"
Handing Buffy the reticule, Ethan said, "The Victorian era was a bit later, more towards the end of the eighteen hundreds." He looked her over, nodding in satisfaction at the fit of the dress and the way the colors complemented her youthful complexion. "A perfect fit, my dear girl. It seems as though this dress was made for you." He smiled to himself at the double meaning only he was aware of, forcefully holding back the evil chuckle that tried to accompany his smile. It would be a pity to give himself away so late in the game, with success right at his fingertips.
Ethan turned to Willow and, in a spur of the moment gesture, took her gloved hand and brought it to his lips to brush a kiss against her knuckles. He couldn't help it; he was just so pleased with how easily they'd played into his hands. Ignoring their bemused looks, Ethan repeated the gesture with Buffy, then said, "May I adjust your hat before I take another photo?"
Buffy nodded, and he leaned forward, murmuring the incantation he'd memorized beneath his breath. With a quick glance to make sure she still had a tight hold of the reticule – just because he worshiped Chaos, it didn't make him a monster – Ethan pricked her scalp with the hatpin, completing the spell.
There was a bright flash of light, and loud pop. When he'd blinked away the spots in his vision, only Willow remained on the sidewalk beside him.
Continue to Chapter Two here.