Written at the behest of AquitarStar. All original characters, quotes, and plotlines belong to Joss, and no copyright is intended.
"It's gorgeous!" Buffy exclaimed, holding the pink Victorian dress up to her body before the mirror.
Behind her, Willow nodded in agreement, but there was something in her smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. Buffy frowned, turning from her reflection to confront her best friend.
"You don't think so?" she asked, hurt evident in her voice.
"Oh no!" Willow exclaimed, hurrying to placate the way she often did. "It is, it really is!"
"But?" Buffy pressured.
"Well, it's just not… very you?" It came out as a question as Willow sidled away down the aisle, casually fingering the masks that hung along the wall in an effort not to look at her friend.
"That's sort of the point Wills," Buffy laughed, returning her gaze to the mirror and swishing the dress back and forth. "Remember? Halloween is an excuse to be the person you're not, the person you would never admit to being if you were. Which is why you will be wearing the costume I picked out for you, and not the sheet you cut holes in this morning."
"I'm not sure the hooker look is really something I can pull off, even on Halloween. I mean, I get what you're saying; be the opposite of who you are for the night. But is a Victorian princess really your opposite?" Willow smiled gently at Buffy's look of indignation, perfectly willing to turn her own argument against her if it meant escaping her fate as a street-walker for the night.
"Well, what do you think my opposite is then?" Buffy asked, still admiring the way the pink gown looked against her skin. After a few beats of complete silence, Buffy turned in confusion to see Willow standing at the other end of the aisle, her hand halfway out as if to touch one of the masks hanging there. Her face was a bit paler than usual, her eyes wide.
"Actually," she said in an awed voice, "this one!"
Quirking her lips in a frown, Buffy draped the dress over one arm, unwilling to let it be snatched up by some other lucky girl, and hurried over to see just what had so captivated her friend. When she got to her side, the bottom dropped out of her stomach.
"Will," she asked in a voice that was in turn horrified, disgusted, and strangely intrigued, "what the hell is that?"
Willow didn't answer, only looked wildly back and forth between Buffy's face and the mask that was so eerily familiar to them both with wide, uncertain eyes.
The princess gown thrown over a rack, temporarily forgotten, Buffy reached out with a hesitant hand to touch her fingertips to the soft silicon. "Is this some sort of sick joke?"
To see a vampire mask hanging in a costume shop just before Halloween certainly wasn't a surprise, but this was no child's get-up, no round molded thing that covered the whole face and had sharp plastic edges, blood painted in a dribble of red from the corner of a fanged mouth. This could have been something off of a movie set, an applique that was adhered to the forehead and over the eyes, giving the wearer a frighteningly accurate set of bumpies. The mask also came with a set of fangs, which were made of seriously sharp plastic, and were similarly high-end. No glow-in-the-dark, foldable pop-ins, these made use of a cementing paste that formed them to the wearer's specific teeth. The combined effect, even hanging on the shelf, left Buffy's fingers itching for a stake.
"I guess not everyone in Sunnydale is as oblivious as they like to seem," Willow murmured, breaking the spell of silence around them.
Buffy gave her head a shake. "I think it's disgusting," she said, though she was dismayed to hear that there wasn't much conviction to the sound of her own voice. She traced the edges of the mask, strangely drawn to the thing. She knew how she would look in the princess dress; how would she look in bumps? Snapping her hand back to her side, she shook her head harshly to break the spell. She had wanted the Victorian style gown to catch Angel's eye; he would hate this costume. He abhorred the vampire part of himself; he would be horrified to see it on Buffy. And she had wanted to dress for him this Halloween.
"I thought you said to dress for yourself?" Willow queried. Apparently Buffy'd said that last part out loud. "Buffy, be honest, could you really handle being a damsel in distress for a whole night? Even if it's just pretend?"
Buffy frowned. Willow sort of had a point. As much as she might want to play the pretty princess, to be treated like one, she was strong and brave and independent, and she honestly wasn't sure that she could pull it off.
"I'm just not sure that would be… appropriate Will," Buffy mumbled, her eyes still held by the mask.
Willow's annoyance with Buffy began to creep through, and she snorted. "Appropriate? Really Buffy? You want me to dress like a hooker, but you think a vampire is inappropriate?"
Buffy didn't answer, just pulled the plastic hook holding the mask down from the rack, turning the package over in her hands. The directions to apply it seemed pretty simple, there were guarantees printed claiming that the brush-on glue wouldn't harm her skin…
"Haven't you ever wondered?"
Willow's question snapped Buffy's attention back to her, her brows drawing together in concern, confusion, even a little bit of anger.
"Wondered what?" she snapped in a harsh whisper.
"What it's like," Willow murmured, looking at the mask in her best friend's hands. "What it's like to feel so… powerful? To walk through the dark and not be scared of anything? To be able to attract other people, to draw them in?" She paused. "I have."
"Will!" Buffy whispered. Willow's gaze jumped back up to hers, seeming to pull herself together as fear and shame flooded into her eyes.
"Oh God! Buffy I… I didn't mean it like that! I just…"
"It's ok," she sighed, her anger fading away at the fear in her friend's voice. She touched Willow's wrist gently. "I get it. There are parts of being a vampire that are… attractive I guess. I know a little what it's like, being the Slayer. You don't, so I can see why you'd want to know…"
Willow listened quietly, staring at the mask and looking rather ill. "But you can't have one or the other can you?" she asked with a tremor. "That kind of power always comes with a trade. A consequence."
"Hey," Buffy smiled, bumping her with her shoulder, suddenly desperate to pull Willow out of the oddly fearful funk she'd so quickly fallen into. "It wouldn't this time, would it?"
Willow looked at her with confusion. Buffy held the mask up by her face, shaking it around a little bit. "I'll make you a deal," she offered, smiling sinisterly in her head when Willow perked up. "You be a hooker for the night, grab hold of that feminine power… and I'll grab hold of this." She shook the mask again, taking the accompanying fang-set down from the shelf. "Be darkness, be a vampire. For one night. We'll both be our opposites."
Skepticism still hung about the red head, and quite frankly, Buffy wasn't as sure of herself as she was letting on, but in the end, they agreed. One night. Opposites. Who could it hurt?