*Life hates me.*

Xander Harris glumly stood in the middle of the Halloween costume shop after he'd just groaned that inward complaint to himself. His depression only increased at hearing the feminine squeals of delight coming from a few rows over, where Buffy and Willow were undoubtedly having better luck than him in finding a really great costume for that holiday tomorrow night.

That young man's discontent was due to two specific factors. Firstly, he was dead broke, which meant that he couldn't afford a single one of those awesome outfits from numerous movies, books, television shows, comics, and other popular culture of the twentieth century. Secondly, even if he DID have all the money in the world, Xander wouldn't have had the nerve to get any of those really fine costumes.

'Cause Snyder totally had it in for him.

That high-school principal had personally threatened Xander with a lifetime detention, if on Halloween night at the educational facility where young trick-or-treaters would be waiting for their escorts around Sunnydale, that teenage boy showed up dressed as any character and in any kind of attire that Snyder disliked.

*Which kinda puts a damper on me dressing up as an empty box of Rogaine and moaning to that bald jerk I'm the ghost of the millions of time he brought and used that hair-growing stuff without any of it working,* mentally sniggered Xander, a happy grin momentarily lighting up his features. After a few more moments, his smile faded, and the boy began to trudge along the rows between the racks of costumes, while still thinking his gloomy thoughts.

*Guess it also means I can't go as a soldier dude like I was planning, wearing Grandpa Harris' Army fatigues that I pulled out of the trunk in the basement. Snyder probably stepped on one of those teeny, green, plastic soldier figurines as a kid, and that scarred him for life. I show up dressed in those clothes, with a toy rifle I was planning to get here, and the troll will have a flashback and freak out, for sure. Then, fifty years from now, some kid in the detention room will ask, 'Why's an old dude with a long, white beard and cobwebs hanging from his ears sitting there in the corner?', and he'll get told, 'Oh, that's Xander Harris, who pissed off the Almighty Snyder.'*

The Sunnydale native now stopped in his walk down the row, and he glowered around the impressive costumes on both sides of himself, that seemed to be mocking the young man. Xander then chided himself, *Hey, man, there's gotta be some kind of way to get even against Snyder, and not wind up in trouble for it. Let's see, who could I dress up as, annoying that little troll to the max but without him able to retaliate? Oh, yeah, it has to be someone that everybody knows, to make sure they all get the joke. AND it has to be within my budget, which is basically zilch. Now, that's a toughie.*

Thoughtfully rubbing his chin, Xander gazed unseeingly at the costumes around him, as he concentrated. *Some historical guy like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, that not even Snyder could say a word against? Nah, the whole point of it has to be someone who'd cause chrome-dome's ulcer to grow bigger and more painful. So, who makes Snyder worried or nervous?*

Further down the racks of outfits, a flash of a strange color, like a fluorescent orange/yellow, now caught Xander's attention, as he blinked at one costume hanging by its hook, with this character's glassily staring head being just as bald as the skull of a certain principal, except for a few lonely hairs that Snyder would have certainly coveted.

A stupendous burst of inspiration now blossomed inside Xander Harris' gleeful mind.

A minute later, Ethan Rayne's gloating over the sale of a certain noblewoman's gown to the latest incarnation of the Slayer was rudely interrupted by a young man coming up to the register counter, with this teenager maniacally cackling to himself while waving through the air in his right hand a long strip of white cloth. Warily examining the approaching youth, Ethan edged back from behind the register as the boy triumphantly stopped by the counter, and he then plunked his piece of fabric onto this flat surface, to then start digging into his right front jeans pocket.

"So, how much do I owe you for that? I hope it won't cost much, but I'm sure I've got enough-" was uttered in a rush of words that would've been difficult enough for Ethan to understand, let alone said in that strange Californian accent babbled by the young lad now tossing a few crumpled dollar bills onto the counter.

Managing to gather his wits, Ethan now dubiously examined both the wrinkled money and the strip of cloth lying next to each other. The Englishman looked up to stare at his waiting customer while cautiously asking, "Er, is that ALL you care to purchase?"

"Yup," vigorously nodded the boy.

"Humph," Ethan contemptuously snorted, to then grudgingly remind himself that a sale was a sale, as with a certain amount of disdain, he swept up the grubby bills and then entered the transaction into the register. Using his snottiest tone, the older man then inquired, "I suppose you would like a bag for your multiple acquisitions?"

Cheerfully ignoring the shopkeeper's sarcasm, Xander just shook his head, and he scooped up the strip of cloth he'd just bought, stuffing this into a jeans pocket, while casually saying, "Nah, thanks anyway. 'Bye." At those last words, the teenager turned and started off towards the front door of the costume shop.

Blinking at the abrupt conclusion of their business, and feeling a sudden rush of curiosity, Ethan called after the departing lad, "Just a moment! Why exactly did you want that, what you acquired?"

Still heading straight for the exit and not looking back, Xander tossed over his shoulder, "Oh, I just needed it to finish off my costume at home. Well, thanks again."

Watching the young man about to leave, Ethan's eyes narrowed, and the Chaos mage now put the tip of his index finger against the top of the counter, drawing a complex, invisible, mystical character in rapid flicks of that digit, while the man's lips soundlessly moved.

At the front door, Xander reached out for the door handle, to instead stop dead and then quickly bringing his right hand upwards, giving the back of his head a quick swat to brush away the fly or whatever it was that he'd abruptly sensed there. Right after that, Xander kept on going, this time successfully pushing the door open and stepping out of the costume shop as the door closed behind him, never noticing the close attention being paid to him during all of this actions.

*Hmmm, a little too much power there, if he actually felt it,* Ethan reflected, still standing behind the counter. *Well, I was a bit rushed, having to make sure that cloth strip was imbued with the Chaos forces that'll break loose when Janus is invoked. I'm sure everything he's got on him now will cause that insolent schoolboy become whatever character, being, or creature that he'll dress up during this glorious Halloween. Ah, well, it'll be most amusing, though perhaps not for him.*