"Oh, great!" disgustedly exclaimed Xander just before tossing Grandpa Harris' Army fatigues back into the cardboard box where they'd previously laid undisturbed by human hands for the last couple of decades. Unfortunately, the numerous holes throughout the green military clothing showed where a horde of ravenous moths had dined well on these garments just as long ago. A California high school student sitting cross-legged on the garage floor among a heap of family junk crammed in there now sourly wondered what to do next.
Halloween was tomorrow. Even if he went looking for yard work or any other jobs he could do then around the neighborhood, there just wasn't time to score enough cash to improve his positively pitiful costume budget. He'd really been counting on the free outfit a dead-broke Xander vaguely remembered from seeing years back. It'd already taken a whole hour of digging through a dozen boxes and other storage containers to find the spoiled Army clothes which had been hopefully planned to be worn by him while escorting trick-or-treating kids around town that night with Buffy and Wils.
An idle thought of putting on those tattered fatigues anyway and claiming he'd tried looking inconspicuous on the front lines but the enemy still spotted him and they definitely weren't low on ammo made Xander snicker to himself. Notwithstanding the perfect chance to illustrate one of Murphy's Laws of Combat, the boy reluctantly dismissed this terrific idea. *No way will Snyder let me get away with that. Plus, the world ain't ready for a proud display of my butt going commando.*
Sighing, the teenager went through one more time the box with the ruined fatigues, on the slight chance there might be something else in there he could change into which still had an intact seat of the pants. Going through even more insect-munched attire, this didn't seem too likely.
Just when Xander was about to quit, his searching fingers felt something crinkle in the front pocket of another unwearable men's shirt. Pulling this out, he felt his spirits lift at seeing an actually lucky find, nothing less than a cool ten-spot! Yeah, okay, the money was a little nibbled around the edges, but it should still be good, right? Added to the couple of bucks he'd previously saved to complete the Army fatigues with a purchased toy gun or rifle, there had to be some great outfits at the new costume store in the Sunnydale business district which Xander Harris could buy on the really, really cheap.
No, there weren't.
Great outfits, absolutely. Cheap, however, wasn't the word for them.
Xander mooched along after Wils and Buffy happily checking out the numerous and very expensive costumes one by one in the Halloween shop. This eventually resulted in him bestowing his finest jaundiced glower towards yet another ghost outfit selected by his bestest bud. Making things even worse was how sickeningly Buffy cooed over and then bought an eighteenth-century noblewoman's gown, all because it was sure to impress a certain souled vampire with an extremely suspicious fondness for male hair products.
It wasn't until they were finished and standing outside the costume store that Willow noticed Xander hadn't acquired anything connected with his own set of Halloween clothes. Asked about this, the boy shrugged it off by telling the Slayer and her red-haired friend he was going over to Costume Town right now and check out their prices first. Accepting this, Buffy confirmed with the others they'd all meet at her house tomorrow night dressed up, and then head together to the high school. Waving goodbye to the girls, Xander went down the block and then around the street corner, to next loiter there for a few minutes until cautiously peeking to see if Wils and the Buffmeister were both gone and out of sight from the All-Hallows Eve holiday business establishment.
Seeing the coast was clear, Xander legged it back to the costume shop. Bursting in on the creepy Brit guy clearly surprised by this, Xander marched up to the counter. There, the shopkeeper was standing behind the cash register while giving the returned non-purchasing lad a most wary look. Stopping in front of Ethan (was that his first or last name?), Xander fumbled out the scanty sheaf of dollar bills he'd been carrying in his pants pocket. The younger man slapped this measly wad of moola down onto the counter.
"Look, mister," Xander aggressively announced, "Here's the deal. That's all the money I've got. Do you have anything here for sale costing this much, or even less? 'Cause it's this place or Costume Town, and I'm not sure I can afford whatever's there, either. So, no matter how crummy, stupid, or silly you might have on sale at half-price or lower, I'll take it!"
Feeling in equal measure a trifle amused and irritated by the brash young American, Ethan still began to regretfully decline this rather…intriguing attempt at negotiations. It'd admittedly be quite droll to sell another one of his special costumes to an additional friend of the Slayer. However it worked out the next night, Janus would certainly enjoy the outcome. Nonetheless, business was business. He might be a devout advocate of chaos, but even among a state of complete disorder and confusion, a man had eat. That truly inadequate amount of currently offered wouldn't cover a double order of this colonial location's dreadful version of fish and chips.
Just before he actually said these words of refusal though, a sudden thought struck Ethan. Following it through on exactly how to phrase his next statements to avoid any tiresome revisit of a deceived customer demanding their money back, the Englishman soon developed a somewhat sardonic smile. This caused Xander a mild flicker of inward worry at the hint of sheer, delighted malevolence evident in this expression.
Regardless, the older male spoke courteously enough when he addressed the teen, "Young man, I'm afraid there isn't any inclusive costume here which fits those fairly idiosyncratic parameters. However…"
An impressive pause coming after this was followed by Ethan nodding down at a good-sized cardboard box tightly taped shut and resting on the floor off to the left side of the container. Xander's gaze naturally went to this object, especially when he heard the shopkeeper continue, "That box contains various superfluous items and other discards which came along with my stock. I placed them in there for proper disposal when I leave after Halloween. If you like, you may purchase the box and its contents, and create whatever costume you desire from anything to be found in there."
Xander considered this. It sounded good, but he wanted more details. "What kind of costumes are we talking here? I mean, can you tell me what's in the box?"
"Not specifically as to which costumes they came from, alas. I wasn't paying all that much attention," Ethan apologetically shrugged. On the inside, he was in fact genuinely enjoying himself at pulling off such a delightful little scam. In a thoughtful tone as if trying to remember something, the man went on. "There's a selection of clothing and other accouterments, including headwear, footwear, belts, at least one outer jacket or coat, and the like. Mind you, I can't guarantee their condition or sizes. What you buy is what you get, and all sales are final."
That didn't bother Xander, not when he could barely afford anything at all. Still, there was one last thing-
"Are there any toy guns? I thought about going as a soldier on Halloween, and buying one of those here for a prop."
Ethan carefully considered his next words. "I'm sure I saw what seemed to be some sort of replica weapon, but I didn't examine it too closely. Again, you'll have to settle for whatever you can find. Is that sufficient?" While waiting for an answer, the gleeful Chaos mage mentally congratulated himself for telling no lies and yet being about to take the little prat for everything he had.
Hesitating for a few moments in a struggle to make up his mind, Xander eventually agreed. "Fine, it's a deal. I get the box, you get the cash."
Matching actions to words, the Sunnydale native bent down to grab and lift the box about the size of a small television set. It wasn't all that heavy, weighing about the same as a backpack loaded with school books. There was still enough heft in it to indicate the box was completely filled. Xander felt a little better at finding this out. Hey, even if the stuff in there wasn't what he really wanted, surely there'd be something he could work with to come up with a reasonably adequate costume, right? Nodding goodbye to the deadpan proprietor, Xander left the building with the box in his arms after pushing open the front door with a handy elbow.
It wasn't until a whole minute or so later when Ethan was confident that idiot lad wouldn't be back right away did he allow himself a shark-like grin. Chuckling as he scooped up and deposited the money lying on the counter, Ethan mused out loud, "Ah, just like old times shaking down the rich fags at Eton. They weren't so clever with all their lovely loot in my pocket, and neither was young Mr. Take-It-Or-Leave-It. Wonder if he's dim-witted enough to actually try piecing together a costume from that load of shite I just sold him? Well, if he does, the Chaos magic on those filthy rags will work anyway, but it'll probably turn out as something not even I can guess at. Which, come to think of it, makes the whole thing just more glorious fun."