"Westley and Buttercup!"
"Ooohh, good one! She can wear the silver wedding gown, and he can be the man in black!"
"With a sword, of course, Buffy, though he'll have to remind his opponents he's not left-handed!"
"Right. Let's see….I know!" There was a happy giggle. "King Kong and Fay Wray!"
"Yes! He'll be in a gorilla costume, and Harmony can be in the thirties-style outfit the actress wore!"
"Shush, Xander. Now….how about Seymour and Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors? He can carry a hollow flowerpot on his left arm, and have his hand inside a sock puppet of Audrey II!"
After saying that, Willow started humming, and then both girls enthusiastically began the opening song from the film, ignoring the disbelieving looks directed at the pair by the teenage boy and girl sitting across the cafeteria table from them.
"Let's try comic books now, Wils. How about….Batman and Supergirl?"
The redheaded young woman in earnest discussion with her Slayer friend gave Buffy's suggestion careful consideration, until the tips of Willow's ears suddenly turned the same shade as her hair, and the smartest girl in Sunnydale High muttered, "Uh, Buffy, I don't think that would work in the comics."
Buffy gave Willow a puzzled look. While the blonde didn't know all that much about comics, despite being for almost two years in the presence of a boy who could tell her (and had) the difference between green, red, yellow, and silver kryptonite, the girl had seen the movies about the DC heroes, and Buffy thought that Xander and Harmony would both look good in the costumes.
Her cheeks now flaming red, Willow looked across the table at a suddenly-sniggering Xander, her embarrassment changing to irritation at her friend's amusement at her expense. She cleared her throat, managing to say, "Uh, tell you later, Buffy," in the tone of voice that hopes later never comes.
Buffy and Harmony shared a baffled glance, until the taller blonde looked out of the corner of her eye at her still-snickering boyfriend, and she abruptly snapped her left elbow just a few inches, but nevertheless with deadly accuracy, in a painful jab into his ribs.
"Umfff!" gasped Xander at the girl's half-playful, half-serious thumping him for being such a, a….boy. A good-natured grin appeared on his face a second later, as Xander promptly grabbed Harmony's left arm with his right hand, delighting in how well his arm was working just a few days out of his cast. The boy's hand tightened around Harmony's firm forearm, before sliding up to her wrist and clasping around her left hand, giving that part of her body an affectionate squeeze.
As the two teenagers happily gazed into each other's eyes, Buffy watched in tolerance, until she looked thoughtful and blurted out another suggestion, "Aquaman and, uh, Madison!"
"Who?!" simultaneously came from the other three people at the table.
"You know, the swimming guy from Superfriends with the orange shirt who talked to fish--"
"I know who Aquaman is!" interrupted Xander, a bemused expression on his features. "But why would Harmony go as one of the early Presidents?"
"What?" Buffy looked startled, until she giggled and explained, "I meant the mermaid from the movie Splash! That's her name. She, uh, was the only blonde mermaid I could think of, and I thought she'd be a good match for that fish guy."
"Oh." Xander accepted this, and then an evil grin appeared on his face. "That actress went topless and bottomless in that---OOOFFF!"
This time, Harmony's elbow strike was in deadly earnest, as evident from Xander's grimace and doubling over to rest the side of his face on top of the cafeteria table away from the girls, though his muffled snorts showed he still felt it had been worth it, over Harmony's stern declaration, "Not a chance in hell, Xander."
The boy lifted his upper body back up, wiping away a stray tear of intermingled pain and mirth, and managing a look of fake innocence, as he inquired, "Not even a clamshell bikini top, Harmony?"
As Harmony faked another punch, and Xander pretended to flinch away, Willow watched, an odd sensation of mingled loss, envy, resentment, and attraction appearing in her mind. Hastily trying to divert her strange feelings, especially the last one, the girl who had listened for years to two boys talking about their comics collections had a sudden inspiration, saying, "Merryman and Dumb Bunny!"
Looking around at the others' astonished faces now staring at her, Willow dropped her gaze to the top of the table, mumbling, "I thought we were still discussing Halloween costumes…."
Buffy said in an annoyed tone, "I've never heard of either of those guys, and that last name has to be some kind of insult!"
"Oh, no, Buffy," said Xander, shaking his head. "Yeah, those two are members of an obscure DC superhero team from the sixties, and uh, they weren't named exactly politically correct then. Which was kinda the point, since it was a send-up. But, I know where Willow got it from. The Phil Foglio Angel and the Ape mini-series, right, Wils?"
Willow nodded self-consciously and looked over at Buffy's startled question, "There's a guy named Angel in the comics?"
"It's not a guy in that comic -- she's a detective teamed up with a gorilla --"
"GEEK ALERT!" chorused Buffy and Harmony, smirking at each other, as both Xander and Willow glowered at the pleased blondes.
The redhead girl huffed, "Well, you come up with another themed pair of costumes, Buffy! And just for that, you're now banned from comic book suggestions!"
Buffy Summers narrowed her eyes at the suddenly uneasy girl next to her. It was not a good idea to ever put limits on the Slayer. The Los Angeles native cocked her head in thought, and a wild inspiration appeared in her brain, as she remembered a hilarious Cirque du Soleil routine she'd seen before coming to Sunnydale, along with a musical drama cliché.
"A crazy mime orchestra conductor and an opera singer! Top that!"
Now it was Willow's eyes that narrowed. She was more than capable of rising up to competition, especially when it came to her Xander-shaped friend. A ruthless look on her face, Willow snapped, "Captain Carrot and Angua! Ha!"
Xander and Harmony nervously looked at each other, leaning back away from the tense confrontation across the table. He spoke first. "We better stop this. On the count of three, okay?"
"Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi!"
Harmony nodded, ignoring the perplexing proposal proffered presently per pursed (author's note: sorry about the alliteration) lips, and shifting in her seat, she counted, "One, two, three…"
"Dick and Jane from the reading books!"
Raising up from their seats, Xander and Harmony, in crouching positions, leaned over the cafeteria table, and both reached out to firmly clap their hands over two girls' shouting mouths.
A few seconds later, with Harmony and Xander both back in their seats and still being regarded with astonishment by Buffy and Willow, the boy ostentatiously counted his fingers that had covered the Slayers' mouth. As he flicked off from his index finger a speck of Buffy's tuna-fish sandwich, Xander cleared his throat, and said, "Guys, before things go too far, we just want to tell you that the problem isn't coming up with suggestions on who we can go on Halloween. Thanks, anyway. No, it's that me and Harmony can't agree on who to go as."
Buffy's eyebrow arched. "Are you having your first lovers' tiff?" She giggled at that, though Willow at her side remained quiet.
Xander grinned, and Harmony also smiled. The girl was the first to speak. "I guess so, Buffy, though it's a pretty relaxed fight. We know we're going to disagree on some things, and this is kinda like practice on how to deal with it. We can argue about it without ever getting angry, and, uh, then…."
At that, Xander snickered, and said, "Then we have the make-up smooches. In fact, I've just been putting off agreeing with her, just so we can argue some more and do more lip-locking." He got a playful shove from Harmony for that, though her happy expression showed she approved of what he'd said.
"Oh," came from a pensive Buffy, who continued, "Well, I guess you don't need to do an All or Nothing bet, then."
Harmony and Xander looked at each other blankly, and then they turned to Buffy. Xander asked curiously, "What's that, Buffster?"
The Slayer looked a little embarrassed. "Uh, well….it was something that was mentioned at Hemery High, though I never did it or saw it. Never mind, you don't need to do it."
Now the pair of teenagers across from the two girls were really interested. "C'mon, talk," ordered Xander, as Harmony nodded eagerly.
Buffy sighed. "Okay, okay. From what I remember being told by the senior cheerleaders at my old school, it went like this: If at Halloween you and your date couldn't agree on what to wear, the two of you did something like flipping a coin, drawing cards, rock-paper-scissors, and the winner could decide on who or what both of you would dress up as."
Harmony frowned, her confusion matching Xander's, as she questioned, "That doesn't seem like such a big deal, Buffy. Why call it what you said -- 'all or nothing'?"
Buffy intently examined the surface of the cafeteria table, reading the initials scraped on it by past students, scatological comments, and advice on what to do during an apocalypse ("if the Slayer's not around, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye"), as she mumbled, "Well, the kicker is that the winner of that game could decide TOTALLY on what the loser had to wear on Halloween, no matter how stupid or humiliating it was. Let's put it this way -- the only thing off-limits was anything actually illegal."
Harmony stared in shock at a squirming Buffy. Xander, on the other hand, had a sudden blank expression on his face and an open mouth. From this issued an unplanned comment, "Does this mean if I won, I could dress up as Captain Kirk and she'd be an Orion slave girl?"
Alexander LaVelle Harris, Homo sapiens sapiens, came back to life, blinking and slamming shut his mouth, as hyperactivity in his amygdala rose to unbelievable levels. In utter terror, his eyeballs swiveled towards three females sitting in frozen silence, as he broke out in a cold sweat, goosebumps appeared all over his body, and his testicles retreated into his scrotum as far back as they could get.
A stiff pair of feminine lips unzipped to hiss, "Perv."
Her fellow blonde concurred. "Pig."
There was a pause, until Buffy poked a finger into Willow's ribs.
From a distant point in her mind where the Jewish girl was recalling from a few minutes ago the softness of another girl's hand on her lips, Willow came back to join the others at the cafeteria table, absently mentioning, "Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt."
All of the other teenagers there stared slack-jawed at the girl with the red hair, with Xander wildly wondering if Willow had thrown herself onto the grenade for her bestest bud. His heart sank as she clearly played back in her head what he'd just said and unleashed a ferocious glare at him.
What happened next was even more scary. Willow Rosenberg smiled.
In a thoughtful tone, that young woman said, "You know, Harmony, if YOU'D won, you could dress up as Peter Pan, and he would have to go as Tinkerbell. Don't you think he'd be absolutely scrumptious in fairy wings, a green leotard with a skirt, shaved legs, clear high heels, and a star wand?"
Harmony and Buffy shifted their looks of death at a quivering Xander to approvingly examine a smug Willow. Harmony now had a musing question: "Uh, I'm not sure exactly how to do the hairstyle….?" She gave Buffy a pleading look, deferring to the Slayer in her other skill besides massacring the denizens of the dark. Elizabeth Anne Summers DID know hair.
Buffy took a deep breath, and began.
"Start with the hair in a high ponytail on the crown. Put the comb between the elastic and the scalp and pull out. Then, flip the ponytail up through the part you made. Run your flat iron over the ponytail and curl it under so you can have a bit more control. Then, backcomb the hair. Spray the hair after this. Next, smooth the top over the ponytail. Spray it again. Now, take the ends and tuck them up and secure them with two bobby pins that are crossed, though you may need more pins, and you may need to tuck more than once. Finally, spray it all over and you're done."
Harmony and Willow listened intently throughout all this, both nodding thoughtfully, though Willow did comment, "I can't remember for sure, but do you think a headband might be added?"
Buffy gave a slow nod, granting her permission. "You do know, if you add a headband, what has to go on it?" She swept her eyes among her fellow females and pronounced, along with the others: "Glitter."
Harmony: "Lots of glitter."
Willow: "Lots of gold and silver glitter."
From where he was now reduced to a puddle, Xander heard the smack of a palm against the tabletop. An angry voice that had clearly made a decision asked, "Buffy, do you have a quarter?"
"Uh, yeah. Why?"
"Bring it out. We're going to play All or Nothing."
"WHAT!?" Xander came back to life, staring incredulously at the three girls giving him identical evil looks.
"That's right," glared Harmony. "We're going to decide right here and now what we -- YOU -- are going to dress up on Halloween."
Xander opened his mouth to protest, and then he closed it as the young man started thinking furiously.
*You pissed her off, and now she's gonna get back at you. If she wins….* Xander shuddered at the consequences, including razor cuts around his calves, much less how the entire school was going to die laughing, and went on. *But you can't back out or refuse the bet….that would really make her mad. And you did say something stupid, and it's too late to apologize for that. You….just have to go through with it* The boy heaved a sigh. *Bye, bye, dignity.*
A sudden thought caused Xander to blink. *Besides….you might actually win.*
The young man's face now presented a perfect poker face to the three girls watching him. He knew if he ever showed the slightest hint of the little voice in the back of his mind chanting *Orion slave girl -- Princess Leia's gold bikini outfit -- Baywatch lifeguard with slo-mo bouncing*, he was risking an actual double orchidectomy. A glint suddenly appeared in Xander's eyes. He looked at the trio of girls.
"Okay. Let's play."
As she pulled out a quarter from her pants pockets, Buffy wondered if this was the right thing to do. She glanced at the two teenagers across from her glowering at each other. It was clear they had made up their minds, but did she have to be part of this? She liked how Xander and Harmony were with each other, and it made her uneasy to be part of this argument that had a possible chance of adversely affecting their relationship. She frantically tried to think of what she'd been told back at her old school, and then she did recall something.
"Guys," Buffy cleared her throat. "Part of All or Nothing is what's called Option A and Option B. Both of you have to write down on three slips of paper three different choices of costumes, without the other knowing what they are, and then turning over the papers and leaving them on the table. After I flip the coin, the loser has a choice. They can pick Option A in which they can chose unseen one slip of paper of the other's three choices and they have to dress up what's on that paper. Or, they can pick Option B, in which the winner turns over all three of their papers with their choices, and the loser can pick one choice that they don't want, with the winner then picking which of the remaining two choices they want. Does that make sense?"
Both of the young persons sitting across the table from the Slayer and her friend narrowed their eyes as they considered this and the possible strategies that came from it. Finally, they nodded, and agreed
"All right, Buffy."
"You got it, Big B."
A troubled expression appeared on Willow's face as she tore out three blank sheets of paper from her notebook, stacked them, and tore them again across, giving both Xander and Harmony three slips of paper. The boy avoided all of the girls' eyes as he stood up from the table bench and announced, "I'm gonna go over there," waving at another deserted cafeteria table a dozen feet away.
At that, Harmony herself stood up and said simply, "Me, too." That girl then walked over to an equally uninhabited table, sat down at it, and took out a pen from her pocket as she considered the three slips of paper now on the tabletop before her. Behind her, at his chosen table, Xander was doing the same.
Now with only Buffy sharing the table with her, Willow leaned over to her friend and whispered, "Buffy, I don't think--"
"Yeah, I know," interrupted Buffy. "I shouldn't have told them about the All or Nothing, 'cause it can get totally nasty. There were some stories--" She broke off, and then the Slayer continued, "But, look, if I'd gone right ahead with the coin flip, they would've said something while being really mad. Now that they're over there, they have time to cool off. Just like we did." Buffy nodded over to where Xander was chewing the end of his pencil while staring into the distance, and then both of the girls looked over at where Harmony was slowly writing down something on one slip of paper.
"I guess you're right," reluctantly said Willow. A small smile slowly appeared on her face. "Xander WOULD make a lovely Tinkerbell, though."
"Yeah. Say, you know, I never thought about it, but does she have nail polish on her toenails? I've got a lovely red color that'd go great with his skin tone--"
Several minutes later, the cafeteria table again contained a quartet of young people. Harmony and Xander were back to sitting by each other, only this time both now had three slips of paper before them, all with blank sides up. Glancing at the serious expressions on her friends' faces across from her, Buffy said somberly, "Xander, Harmony, we can stop this right now, okay? There's no reason for this. Dressing up for Halloween is supposed to be fun, not--"
"Let's do this, Buffy," interrupted Harmony, a bit stiffly.
"Yeah," grunted Xander, just giving his girlfriend a fractional glance out of the corner of his eye.
Her stomach turned over, as Buffy wondered miserably how things had gotten so out of hand. Nevertheless, she held up her clenched fist with a quarter balanced on her tucked-in thumb, and took a deep breath that came rushing out in a quick, "Harmony calls."
Without waiting for a reaction, Buffy then snapped up her thumb as gently as possible with her Slayer strength. There was no reason to attract attention by bouncing the coin off the ceiling. Or even sending the quarter through it. The spinning coin went up a dozen feet anyway, reaching its apex as Harmony said, in a slightly quavering voice, "Heads."
With bated breath, all four of the teenagers watched the coin come down to smack into Buffy's palm and for her hand to turn over onto the back of her other hand. There was a pause, and then Buffy lifted off her hand that had held the coin, showing what was on the face of the coin.
The profile of George Washington sternly faced forward, as if he disapproved of what had taken place.
Xander Harris felt his stomach drop right down to the bottoms of his feet.
Buffy managed to choke out, "Uh, Xander, which option do you want?"
Through dry lips, the boy said, "Just….gimme a minute, okay?"
Thankfully, nobody said anything more, as Xander tried to work things out in his head. *If I pick Option B, I can knock off the Tinkerbell outfit, which I KNOW she put down there. But….that means she can pick something even worse. And there WILL be something worse, unless the Hellmouth suddenly decided I'm its best friend, which is NO chance at all. Option A means I have a one-in-three chance of having to dress up in high heels and a drafty skirt. Still….no matter how bad it gets, if that happens, I can at least tell myself I picked it using my own free will. Gee, that's the equivalent of jumping off the Empire State Building and telling yourself on the way down, at least I'm gonna decide if I land on my head or my ass.*
Xander took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and thrust forward his hand, his stiff index finger landing on the center slip of paper in front of Harmony, as he croaked, "I pick Option A."
The frozen girls watched Xander slide the paper from Harmony's trio of paper slips, using the tip of his finger, to bring it in front of himself, using his other hand to sweep away his own now-useless paper slips. It took the boy a few seconds to work up his courage, and the teenager actually cringed as he turned the paper over to look at the words of doom.
Horrified eyes came up to stare at Buffy and Willow, as Xander let out a earsplitting screech of total disbelief that resounded throughout the entire cafeteria.
"ARCHIE ANDREWS AND BETTY COOPER?!"