Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Vampire Hunter D belong to their perspective owners. I am not one of them. I'm just borrowing them for entertainment purposes and no money shall be made from this entertainment.
Author's note: Yes, it's another YAHF. Sorry, can't seem to help myself.
A Hunter's Tale or How Did We Get from Here to There
"Transient guests are we."
Xander listened with a half an ear as Ethan, of well… Ethan's, manoeuvred Buffy into renting a princess like ball gown for Halloween. Since the store's owner was too busy to be annoyed by someone who couldn't afford the costumes he was looking at, Xander took the opportunity to rummage through the higher end get ups.
He almost whimpered as he looked over lost opportunities. Superheroes, Storm Troopers, Alien's and Predators, Robo-Cop and Marvin the Martian. Anyone of those suits would be a hundred times more impressive than the plastic gun and fatigues he would be wearing the next night.
And a hundred times more expensive.
With a little sigh, he turned to join the girls, who had finished their shopping and were waiting at the door for him. His forward motion was impeded however, when his plastic bag of plastic gun looped itself onto the oversized hilt of a not so plastic sword.
"Dang it." A twist here, a pull there, and the stupid bag had gotten thoroughly tangled. He let go of it, looking at it in disgust as it hung off the sword.
Buffy and Willow were both looking at him and obviously trying not to laugh. He waved them off. "Go grab us a table at the Espresso Pump, I'll be right there."
As the girls headed out Xander reached out towards the bag, intending to rip the handles apart to get it off the sword. Another pair of hands reached the sack before he did, and a few graceful moments later Ethan was handing it back, still intact, to a surprised Xander.
"Don't mention it." Ethan picked the sword up and gave a little sigh. "This does not belong here." Xander looked around the shop, noticing that the weapon wasn't the only thing out of place. Last minute customers and panicking high school students that had 'volunteered' for trick or treat duty had turned what had probably once been a neat and tidy store into a jumble sale.
Ethan planted the tip of the sheathed sword on the floor and now that Xander wasn't annoyed with the thing, he noticed just how long it was. Standing upright, it was almost as tall as he was and if it hadn't been jammed into the costumes so that it had been hanging out at an angle he never would have gotten tangled in it. It also hadn't helped that the shape of the hilt itself was… odd. It gave the impression that it had been carved from an irregular piece of driftwood, and yet at the same time it was banded, as if it were actually bamboo. A slightly out of place black and white disc at the cross piece seemed to be a modern art interpretation of a skull.
"What costume does that thing belong to anyway?"
The store's owner took a closer look at the sword and then sent an amused smile towards the door through which the girls had just recently left. "It belongs to a vampire hunter's costume."
Damn, that would have been cool. Buffy going as a fainting noble woman and him going as a slayer, male of course. The reversal of roles would have done a lot to replace the lost machismo he'd suffered when Buffy had rescued him from Larry that afternoon.
And, should he be worried that that Ethan guy looked way too amused for comfort?
"I'll tell you what, help me find the rest of the costume in this mess and I'll rent it to you in exchange for the plastic rifle you just bought from me."
Xander's eyes went wide. "Are you serious?"
That was enough for Xander; he'd learned long ago never to disbelieve an Englishman who had just used the Q word.
"What are we looking for?"
Fifteen minutes later the two of them had dug up black leather armour, arm guards, boots, wide brimmed hat, cape (of all things), spiked shoulder guards and a weapon's belt with a buckle that matched the skull disc on the sword.
For a costume the get up was solidly real. Even the blade of the sword was genuine, if blunted.
"Where did you get this from anyway?"
Ethan frowned in thought, then walked over to the checkout counter and pulled out an accounting book. He flipped though a few pages until he found what he was looking for. "Thought so." He closed the book and looked over at Xander. "It was part of a lot I bought from a production company. It was full of costumes that had been designed as visual aids to some of the movies they were pitching. The items in the lot were all from films that didn't get the go ahead."
Xander looked over the hat he was currently holding. "What was this movie supposed to be?"
"I'm afraid I don't know. The costumes only came with the names of the characters attached to them and I think this one just said Vampire Hunter."
Actually, there had been one more letter on the piece of paper, but Ethan, not knowing the character, had thought that someone had simply been interrupted before writing the rest of the name down.
"We're still missing a wig, a shirt and a blue pendant.''
As it turned out that those last three pieces were the only things still attached to the hanger the costume was originally on.
A few minutes later Xander headed out, still hoping to catch up with the girls at the Espresso Pump. He was one plastic rifle poorer, and one kick ass costume, richer.
Resplendent in her ball gown, Buffy opened the door to her house and felt her lower jaw give way and nearly hit the floor. The first thing she saw was black leather armour, pulled tight across a hard body that more than hinted at the muscle underneath the material. A long cape with an amber lining draped elegantly down his arms and back and the man's face was framed by long flowing hair that was too gorgeous to be called anything as simple as brown. A sword hilt peaked out from behind his right shoulder and a wide brimmed hat topped off the ensemble, shading the young man's face. He pulled the hat off and bowed to Buffy. Her mouth snapped shut in surprise as she realized the face under that hat belonged to her Xander shaped friend, who didn't seem all that Xander shaped at the moment.
"Lady Buffy, may I escort you and Lady Willow to our hallowed halls of learning to participate in the collecting of candy?"
Buffy choked back a laugh and curtsied. "We would be greatly honoured to accept you as our protector and guide dear sir."
Even under tickle torture, Xander would have refused to admit that he was having a good time, but he was. While he was too old for the whole trick or treat scene, he did rather miss it. And not just the candy. Halloween had always given him the feeling that the dark was his, at least for the one night. Given that vampires and the other things that went bump avoided the holiday, that feeling did have some basis in fact.
The children he was taking around were a hoot and they had quickly implemented the tips he'd given them at the start of the evening. A few more houses and they should have enough candy to last them a couple of weeks or more.
As the kids raced up the walkway to the next house, Xander felt a tug on his cape. He looked down to see a cute little thing dressed as a princess.
"Yes?" He asked, drawing the word out longer than necessary and frowning slightly. He was certain that this girl hadn't been in his group when they started out.
"Who you were supposed to be? I'm a princess."
Xander smiled. "Well, maybe I'm your knight, in not so shining armour."
She frowned and shook her head. "You look like the guy in the cartoon I saw last night, only prettier. "
Xander winced. So much for feeling manly. "What cartoon? "
"The one I watched while Jeanie was busy with her boyfriend. "
The kids from his group were coming back when she grabbed his left hand, looked at the palm of it and frowned. She tightened her grip and tugged. He followed, allowing her to pull him up the walkway to the house. The woman at the door smiled at the little girl and her escort. "So, who are you?" She asked, even though she already knew the answer.
"I'm a princess, and this is D. May I borrow a marker or a pen, please?"
The woman looked quizzically up at Xander, who just shrugged. The woman gave a shrug of her own and then pulled open the drawer of a small table that was sitting in the entryway. A quick rummage netted her a half dried out black marker, which she handed over to the costumed princess. The girl thanked her with a curtsy.
"Your left hand, please."
Willing to play along, Xander handed over the asked for appendage. The girl uncapped the marker and with three dots and a curving line drew a happy face, with nose, in the palm of his hand. She recapped the pen and handed it to its owner with another curtsy. The woman took it back with a smile and handed the princess a miniature chocolate bar in exchange.
Xander looked down at the smiley face drawn into his palm, then back to the girl. "Why did I need a face in my left hand?"
The little girl rolled her eyes and huffed. Obviously, he was being very silly. "If you're D from the cartoon, then you have to have a face in your hand. He can save you if the vampires and mutants get you." Having given her answer she ran off down the walkway to meet up with a harried looking woman who was trying to control three boys dressed as pirates. The girl looked enough like the woman to leave little doubt that this was her mother and Xander tipped his hat to her as he hurried past after his group, who were already half ways to the next house.
Once Xander caught up to his kids he looked back down at the smiley face on his hand and shook his head. He didn't know what the cartoon was that she was talking about, but the thing must be downright weird.
In the back of a dark shop, a man said the last few words to the spell he was casting. Sweating with the effort Ethan looked up as he felt the different threads of chaos magic pull themselves together into a fist and punch their way into this reality.
Xander and his troupe were at the last house on their route when the magics hit them. The woman handing out candy gasped when the change came over the group, although it was mostly due to the fact that the young man in the black armour and cape became, with only a few refining shifts to his appearance, both staggeringly beautiful and wholly terrifying.
D didn't know how he'd arrived on this woman's front porch, but he didn't let that faze him. He grabbed the two children in the group who were unchanged and shoved them across the threshold, into the woman's arms.
"Bar the door."
She hastily complied and D turned to square off against a cackling witch, a brute in a black mask and a small, winged fairy. D reached back and wrapped his hand around the hilt of his sword.
"I currently have no quarrel with you." His voice was as quiet as the deepest pond, but those depths had nasty things in it, and those things had teeth.
The three creatures gave him an assessing look, and then bolted away in three different directions.
"Huh," a hoarse voice by his left hip said, "it's rare to see monsters with common sense."
D didn't bother to answer. The sounds from the house behind him verified that the woman and two children were busy barricading the door with whatever furniture they could move. He stepped off the porch and walked out to the street where small creatures and people in festival clothing ran about either growling or screaming.
"It's a spell." The gravelly voice at his left said.
D lifted his left hand up so he could look at his palm. "Are we being affected by it?"
The palm of his hand rippled, and a small, wizened face formed in the centre of it. The thing looked at him, and then blinked. "Yeah, you could say that."
"In what way?"
The creature blinked again. "Let's just say that you're not quite yourself at the moment." It paused in thought. "Actually, I'm not so sure I'm not being affected as well. I feel strangely jovial and I can't seem to stop smiling." It gave him a grin that was disturbing enough that D returned his attention to the chaos around him.
"Can you track the spell to its source?"
The little face took a deep breath and seemed to taste the air. "No problem."
Ghosting through the shadows, D had stopped only once, to scare off a couple of demons that were showing interest in two girls. He continued on his way before the young women got a good look at him. As he moved away, he heard the girl in very skimpy clothing manage to convince the one in the heavy dress to come away to safety. If they made it, they ought to survive until the spell was broken.
D stared at the dark storefront, the slightest of frowns on his face. "A costume shop."
"Not exactly a surprise."
D looked at his left-handed companion. "Why?"
"Check yourself in the window."
D looked at his reflection. As usual, given his nature, it was indistinct. His image was half there and half not there, the likeness made worse by the indifferent quality of the darkened glass as a mirror. Still, what his left hand was talking about was obvious.
"I'm possessing… and altering this body."
"Yep. I'd say the spell is using costumes as a link. Pretty much every monster out here is just some poor slob who dressed up for whatever festival they were celebrating."
D nodded, and then moved to kick the door in.
D halted in mid move. "What?"
"At least try opening it first."
D's lips quirked momentarily in what would have been a wry smile on anyone else as he reached for the doorknob.
As D walked through the shop he had to wonder if the mage who was working the spell was an idiot, or just so powerful that he didn't worry about anyone coming after him. Those were really the only two reasons he could come up with for the door actually being unlocked.
"The focal point should be just behind those curtains."
D didn't acknowledge that he had heard his companion, other than to move to the curtained doorway and pull back the drape. In the room behind the hanging cloth, a bust with two faces and glowing eyes sat on an altar surrounded by candles.
"Huh, Janus. Makes sense, but I didn't think anyone would have known who he was nowadays. Even the oldest nobles haven't bothered with the Roman and Greek gods in the last eight or nine thousand years.
"Surely it hasn't been as long as that."
D turned to the voice. It belonged to a tall, dapper man in his early forties.
"This is your work?" D asked him.
D frowned at the reply, finding the one word strangely familiar. "End the spell."
The mage smiled, it wasn't pleasant. "Now why would you want me to do that? The night's just begun. Besides, you wouldn't want to leave the party early, would you?"
D narrowed his eyes at the sorcerer and reached back to wrap his hand around the hilt of his sword.
The mage raised his hands, as if to fend D off.
"Now let's not be hasty. Surely we can come to an amicable understanding."
D was beginning to wonder why the magician was talking instead of trying to fight him off with magic.
"Ha, he's used up everything he's got casting that spell." Left Hand said, answering D's unasked question. "Hell, he's lucky to be standing, given how much power it must have taken."
"Which is why I wouldn't be able to end the spell. It will just have to play itself out." Ethan's tone was mellow, but his eyes darted around the space, looking for the owner of the hoarse voice.
The air near D's hip seemed to make a snorting sound. "Please, do we look that stupid…? Well, maybe he does... Erk." D briefly closed his left hand into a fist, and then released it. "Humph, fine. We don't need him to end it; all we need to do is destroy the focus."
"No, wait…" Ethan started, trying to stop the costume possessed intruder. Before he could get to the third word in the sentence, which would have been "don't," D had already unsheathed his sword and split the bust in two, vertically.
Ethan dove out the back door of the shop as the two halves of Janus showed their displeasure at being split further in two by self-destructing. Costumes and bits of the shop swirled around in the sudden explosion and even D himself was thrown to the floor by the power of the suddenly released spell.
Xander groaned and fought to pull himself upright. He looked around the semi-destroyed shop and shook his head. Painfully he got to his feet, reclaiming the costume's sword before staggering his way out the store and into the now blissfully silent night.
With exaggerated care, he sheathed the blade and then looked down at the palm of his left hand. He let out a sigh of relief as a black marker happy face smiled back at him. After pulling off his hat and giving his head a rub that dislodged his wig, Xander put one foot in front of the other and started to walk towards Buffy's place, hoping that he really would find that the girls had made it to safety long enough to wait out the spell's end.