Disclaimer: Joss, WB, UPN et al. own Buffy. George Lucas, LucasFilm, LucasArts et al. own Star Wars. Timothy Zahn owns Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Squaresoft own Final Fantasy. No, this isn't a FF fic.

Title: For the Good of the Empire.

Author: Paradigm Shifter

Feedback: Yes! YES! Please?! Love to know what you think.

Rating: I'll go with PG-13 for now. Be prepared for it to go up, though.

Grateful Thanks: go to Trevelyan (Matt) and Bobby Cox. Your input and suggestions were both invaluable for this. And Bobby, you got your wish.

;-)

Notes: The first of a set of Halloween fics. All the others will be one-shots; this will be a continuing fic (mainly because the opportunity to rewrite Buffy if Thrawn was there is too good to miss) So... this is the first chapter (don't expect me to stick word for word to the script, that's boring. In fact, don't expect me to stick to anything other than the basic gist of the episodes...)

It's not going to interfere with Xander the Jedi canon, and is basically stand alone. For those of you wanting more of Elysium, there is another chapter (almost) finished. SJ will need a bit more time. OK... a lot more time... ;-)

*

Ethan sidled up to a brown haired boy who had entered with two women, a blonde and a redhead. "Can I help you, young man?"

Xander jumped, and looked around nervously for a second, before noticing the man standing next to him with a small nametag that read 'Ethan'. "Er...

Yeah... I guess you can. That is, if you're the Ethan that owns this shop, yes?"

"I'm the only Ethan I know, certainly, young man. Tell me, what is your name?"

"Xander Harris." Xander fiddled with his hands in his pocket for a moment, before withdrawing one holding two bucks, and fingering them nervously.

"Just call me the two-dollar Costume King."

Ethan's smile faded as he heard that. He had hoped to get more from the Slayer's friends: that way, the costumes could be all the more powerful.

"Ah... well, as you see, we don't have much in the way of costumes for two dollars."

Xander shrugged. "I know. I wasn't after a full costume, just a toy gun.

I've got some old fatigues at home, and was just lookin' around for the weapon."

"And you were going to go as a military goon?" Ethan's tone told his opinion of that.

Xander bristled slightly at the comment, but refrained from speaking. He couldn't afford, literally, to antagonise the owner of the shop.

Ethan tutted, almost to himself, and continued, "and there will be many others with ideas like yourself. You will be but one soldier in a sea of many. That is hardly an original costume, son."

"Well, excuse me if I can't afford more." Xander was seconds from walking out without the 'finishing touch' as he termed it.

Ethan stepped smoothly around Xander, blocking his exit, and pointed further toward the back. "No, Xander, you seem to misunderstand me... I cannot have anyone unhappy with their costume at Halloween! Dear me, no! I insist that you choose something. Please."

Xander seemed uncertain. "Well..."

"Please. Anything you like."

Xander started to ask, 'you're sure?' but Ethan intercepted the question.

"You're...?"

"I insist. Please." Ethan's smile was almost reptilian, but Xander missed it with the free ticket he had just been given.

Ethan smiled wider as the boy near lost himself in the piles of accessories and racks of clothes. He turned to see the Slayer and her little friend swooning over an 18th century formal gown. He walked toward the pair, intent on getting the Slayer to take the costume. It would just be too delicious.

"This may be better than I hoped..."

*

Willow squealed as Buffy held up the gown and looked down. "That will be perfect on you, Buffy!"

Ethan grinned, and spoke from directly behind Willow, making her squeak in fright and turn around. "Indeed, yes, miss! That gown will suit you perfectly! If I may be so bold to say, the colour quite sets off your eyes."

Buffy blushed at the unexpected compliment, and looked at the jewel encrusted gown. "Oh, it's lovely, but I could never..."

"Of course you can, miss!" Ethan cut in, "and if you can't, well I'll be forced to give it to you for free! It is so perfect, I can't help myself!"

Willow grinned behind Ethan, and bounced on tiptoes as if to say, 'See! See!

Even he thinks it's perfect! Take it, Buffy! Angel will be drooling!'

Buffy looked uncertain for a moment longer, before she folded under the 'Resolve Face' that Willow broke out. "OK," she said firmly, "I'll take it."

Ethan smiled widely, only the fact that it didn't reach his eyes stopping it from being genuine. "Excellent, miss." He turned to Willow. "And you miss?

What does _your_ heart desire this Halloween?" His grin was now near a leer.

He couldn't help himself. The Slayer? A helpless 18th century aristocrat?

That was just too perfect.

Willow shrugged. "Oh, I have most of my costume at home, thank you."

"And what was it that you were going to go as?" Ethan asked politely.

"Well..." Willow seemed nervous, "a ghost. It's a classic."

Ethan had to think for a moment. While a ghost meant she would be utterly incapable of fooling his plans, it was hardly the most amusing costume. She would be invulnerable to harm. Besides, what in life that was worthwhile didn't have a few risks? Finally, he came to a decision. "Indeed it is. It is also painfully overused." Ethan's tone was one of scathing disappointment.

The tone of voice got Willow's back up. "Well?" she asked archly, "what would you suggest?"

"May I suggest Helen of Troy?"

Willow nodded absently, until she realised what he was intimating. "No!" she frowned at him. "Hang on... I've got an idea..."

She vanished into the same area that Xander was exploring, but missed him as he moved deeper into the racks, while she went to the first set of bins and dug through. A few moments later, out came a small blaster, and in a rack of footwear, a pair of mid-to-upper calf black leather boots. They lacked a heel, and looked as if they might _just_ fit. But only just.

Willow was muttering to herself as she walked back. "I've got the hair:

check. And the green eyes: check. Attitude... ah, there, we have a problem..."

Buffy smirked, "just think Resolve Face, Wills."

Willow started at the sudden unexpected input. "Oh. Right. Thanks."

She turned to Ethan. "That's fine, thanks."

Ethan frowned, and Buffy unconsciously mirrored his frown. "What is that going to be?"

Willow blushed deeply. "well... I thought... Maybe... Mara Jade?"

Ethan looked blank, but some flicker of understanding lit in Buffy's eyes.

"The Star Wars character?"

Willow turned in surprise. "You _know_?"

Buffy shrugged, and looked embarrassed. "Well... Xander kind of lent me a pile of books. She was in three of them."

Willow grinned. "Don't worry, that's his way of saying you're part of the gang. Well, that and the Twinkie..."

Buffy mock shuddered. "Don't remind me. But won't you need a jacket and some sort of body suit?"

Willow nodded. "I've got a black bodysuit that I can use. Jesse bought it for me as a gag gift... about six months before you moved to Sunnydale."

Even though it was a long time, really, since Jesse had died, Willow felt a pang of regret at not feeling sadder. Xander had been the closer of the two to Jesse: they were both guys, they talked about the same things.

Buffy smirked. This should be fun.

"And my mom's got a brown leather jacket that I can... um... borrow." Willow smiled. Her mother would go ballistic if she knew. But then, what she doesn't know, right?

Buffy gave Willow the thumbs up. "Looks like we're all set." She turned to Ethan. "Ring it up, mister."

Ethan smiled. "Certainly, young lady."

This was going to be a most interesting evening.

He could see it coming a mile off.

*

Xander rummaged through a rack of pirate costumes, which was sitting next to the rack of army fatigues and other military dress. He automatically discounted them, his sights set on something... intense. Otherworldly.

Something that would, hopefully, make Buffy see him in a new light.

He pulled out one costume. "Jedi? Nah... it's been done."

He rummaged some more. "Darth Vader? Now _there_ is a costume. Don't think it'll make Buffy _see_ me though. Besides, I don't think being him would be a good idea. I'm not tall enough."

A wig and a red and gold uniform came out on a hanger next. "What the hell?

Flash Gordon? I don't _think_ so!" This too was discarded.

Xander left that rack, and moved to the next. "Hm... what's this? Grey trenchcoat... with a cross on the sleeves. Seifer? Maybe... after all, I could dye my hair. Where's the Gunblade?"

Five minutes of searching revealed a Revolver Gunblade, but no Hyperion.

Seifer, wielding Squall's weapon? "No."

Xander sighed, and then stopped still. An idea had just struck him. He went back to where he found the Star Wars costumes, and rummaged around for a plastic blaster. It was heavier than he anticipated, and then found a holster that fit. Quickly following were a pair of stark white trousers with knee-length black boots that ended just below the knee and a jacket just as harsh a white as the trousers. Another ten minutes diligent work had the gold brocade and marks of rank that mattered to his costume. He assembled them, and headed over toward Ethan, who had moved behind the counter after having persuaded Buffy to purchase the gown.

*

"Ring it up." Xander grinned at Ethan, and piled the costume on the countertop.

"What's this, then?" Ethan asked with surprise. "Going with the military after all?"

Xander winked, conspiratorially. "In a manner of speaking. Oh! I nearly forgot... have you got any light blue grease paint?"

Ethan's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "Grease paint? Blue? What on earth are you concocting?"

Xander grinned. "Ah, I guess I can tell you... Grand Admiral Thrawn."

Ethan looked blank. "Who?"

To say Xander was surprised would be putting it mildly. "You mean you've never seen Star Wars?"

"Indeed I have, but I have no recollection of there being anyone such as this in the films."

"Yes... that's because he was in the books."

"Books?"

"Grand Admiral Thrawn... the only non-human to ever make it to Grand Admiral in the Imperial navy. The greatest tactical mind the Empire ever had."

"That doesn't help a great deal, Xander."

Xander sighed. "The Empire was extremely xenophobic, yes? Thrawn was an alien, and as such, was never expected to amount to much. He was hated and despised by most of his peers in the Navy, and despite the Emperors hatred of 'lesser species' he acknowledged Thrawn's capability. He sent him into the unknown for years, to hide him away. The Empires dirty secret. Or maybe the Emperor had an inkling of what would come, and prepared for it..."

Xander blinked, and could see that this was going completely over the store owners head.

"Er... sorry. I'm babbling, aren't I?"

Ethan shook his head. "That's perfectly alright. Here, you seem so enamoured of this idea I doubt I could persuade you otherwise." Ethan reached up to a shelf, and removed a pot of greasepaint. "Here. With my compliments."

Xander nodded his thanks, and stuffed all the bits and pieces into a bag.

Ethan smiled as Xander walked out. "Have a nice night!" He called after him.

Xander turned and waved his thanks. Buffy and Willow had already left with their purchases. With how long he thought that gown of Buffy's would take to get into, he wouldn't be a bit surprised if she was already struggling into it.

*

Xander knocked nervously on the door of 1630 Rovello Drive, home of none other than Buffy Summers. And the rest of the Summers girls, of course. His white Admirals uniform was slightly too loose in the shoulders, but he figured that as the night wore on, he would get used to it. Lord knew that he'd feel a fool when the greasepaint went on.

He heard the patter of feet, and the door opened with Dawn standing behind it. "Hi, Xander!"

"Hello, Dawnie. How's things?" He stepped through the doorway, and grinned at Joyce as she looked over to see who had just walked in.

Joyce smiled, "Hello, Xander. Buffy and Willow will be down in a minute.

Feel free to have a seat while you're waiting. I'm sure, at least with Buffy's diaphanous costume, they will be a while longer."

Buffy's voice sounded from the stairs. "I heard that, mom! And I'll have you know, we're finished!"

Buffy descended the stairs regally, her hair piled up on her head in a complicated style that let ringlets fall around her face. Xander stood up in shock, and had to shake himself to stop himself from drooling.

As it happened, he needn't have bothered, because Dawn kicked him none too gently in the shins to get his attention again, before he made a fool of himself.

Xander managed to get his voice working again. "Glurk... er.. I mean, my Lady! Duchess of Buffonia! I completely renounce all skin-tight modern fabrics! Er... yes, that's what I do... I... Er..."

Dawn grabbed his sleeve, and pulled his ear down to her mouth. "Drool any harder, and there'll be a puddle on the floor."

Xander blinked, and looked at Dawn for a second. "Uh... yeah, right. Sorry, Dawn." He frowned. "Say... why aren't you coming Trick or Treating?"

Dawn shrugged. "I don't feel like it. Mom and I are gonna have to quality mother/daughter time. Watch a few flicks; eat lots of popcorn... y'know, stuff like that."

Buffy shot Dawn an envious look. "Yeah, and I could stay home and do that too, if it wasn't for that hideous little troll Snyder..."

Xander smiled. "Cheer up, Buff. At least we're all together."

Buffy's glare told him that was the wrong thing to say.

A cough came from upstairs.

Buffy raised a hand to her mouth, before she stepped aside and began the introductions. "Mother, Dawn, Xander, I have the great honour of presenting to you, Willow... in a fabulous..."

Willow descended the stairs.

"... ghost costume." Buffy finished lamely.

"Hey, Wills," Xander greeted with a grin. "Nice sheet. Going for a new record?"

Willow giggled nervously.

Buffy tapped her foot, before walking up to Willow, and saying firmly, "that wasn't your costume! Come on, you had it on a minute ago!" With that, she whipped off the sheet, and revealed Willow to the astonished eyes of all in the room...

*

More to come...

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