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Pyrrhic Victory

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Summary: Sure, he won the bets. He can dress Cordy and her friends up for Halloween. Then Xander realizes… he's stuck dressing Cordy and her friends up for Halloween. And… huh. Who's that shy, black-haired girl Cordy is spending all her time with..? X/f/f, C/f

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Wars > Xander-Centered
Star Wars > Cordelia-Centered
(Moderator)JoeHundredaireFR18427,96668227,22227 Jan 1114 Apr 13No

Chapter One

Title: Pyrrhic Victory
Author: JoeHundredaire (joehundredaire@tthfanfic.org)
Rating: R/FR18.
Pairings: Xander Harris/OC/OC, Cordelia Chase/Tara Maclay
Disclaimer: Right, I actually went and checked to be sure this time… Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all associated characters belong to Fran and Kaz Kuzui. And of course, that misogynistic bastard named George Lucas owns everything Star Wars. Let's just go with 'not mine' and leave it as that. Oh, but Cassie Baker, Nicole Bell, Rebecca Bryant, Mallory Harvey, and Pamela Irving of the Cordettes are all my creations. If you want them to expand your cast of Sunnydale High denizens, they're free to use but please ask first.
Summary: Sure, he won the bets. He can dress Cordy and her friends up for Halloween. Then Xander realizes… he's stuck dressing Cordy and her friends up for Halloween. And… huh. Who's that shy, black-haired girl Cordy is spending all her time with..? X/f/f, C/f
Joe's Note: Alright, so, long story short here… I started Spynpsycle but even after asking some - okay, a whole bunch - people for help, I still couldn't figure out a decent way to continue it because I'd pretty much created one ridiculously unwieldy mess of a story. So I decided to go back to my roots and pull together three ideas that seem to go over well on this site:
1. Xander YAHF. Particularly Xander with a lightsaber YAHF.
2. Xander using the winning of a bet to make Cordelia dress up as something out of a nerd's wet dream.
3. Xander with two girlfriends.
And that's just the A Plot of this. The pre-Halloween portions are actually a Third Line Some Waiting story, with a B Plot scavenged from Run This Town and therefore involving Tara and the requisite 'it's a Joe fic' lesbianism just for Lancelot, and a C Plot of… well, you'll see. It's interesting, promise. I actually have the entire story outlined and a goodly chunk written, but feel free to read and review because odd little tidbits can always be integrated into the story or its sequels or side stories down the road.



September 25, 2003



     Staring in disbelief at the paper the teacher had just returned to him, Xander Harris's eyes remained locked on the pair of large, bright red numbers near the top of the page. Eighty-nine. He'd gotten an eighty-nine. A B+. Which was a full letter grade above what he was used to seeing on his quizzes, and hopefully enough to bring him victory. Granted his competition wasn't exactly Willow or anything, but still. Stranger things had happened in Sunnydale than Cordelia getting a ninety or higher on an English Comp quiz.

     Although Xander wasn't exactly sure where that scenario would rank compared to vampires, the praying mantis woman, or the creepy witch who had stolen her daughter's body because she missed cheerleading…

     Xander looked to his right and found Cordelia Chase frowning at him, which filled his heart with hope. She'd seen his score, hers was lower, and she was regretting making the bet with him! Yes! There was a God! His eyes slid down to rest on the paper in front of her and bugged out. A sixty-eight. Not only had she not beaten him, she'd barely passed the quiz. Holy crap. He'd destroyed her. Maybe he should have pushed for some sort of bonus for a difference of ten or twenty points…

     To this day, despite knowing he shouldn't question his good fortune, he still didn't quite understand how he'd ended up involved in the bet in the first place. He and Cordelia had been trading barbs as per usual, the brunette's tongue getting even sharper since her encounter with Buffy right after the Slayer's return from Los Angeles, when it had devolved into a general comparison of intelligence and then… she'd thrown it out there. One quiz and one winner, with that person having the right to pick the loser's costume for Halloween. After setting general but important limits - no cross-dressing for him and nothing more revealing than a two-piece for her - they'd shook on it. Considering the rather… unique… grasp on English that most of the cheerleaders tended to display, though, competing with Cordelia to see who could get the better score on the upcoming quiz in English Comp had seemed like a sucker bet. And in the end, he'd been right. Eighty-nine to sixty-eight.

     Now he only needed to decide… comics or sci-fi?

     The next ninety minutes seemed to drag on forever for Xander but finally the bell rang and the classroom emptied with startling speed as the students dashed off in search of lunch. Xander packed his bag a bit more slowly, wanting to resolve his bet with Cordelia in private. Not that he couldn't deal with her minions - as a matter of fact, he needed to go find several of them later - but he knew they were stronger as a pack and figured it might be easier to convince each one individually than it would be to get them all at once. "So, ready to hear what you're going as for Halloween, Cordy?"

     "Lay it on me, dweeb. I've been waiting all period. Well, for days technically, but even more for the last however many minutes since it's been official that you won. I was going to text you or something, but then I remembered you're still in the Stone Age. Plus the teacher is really good at spotting that kind of thing." Xander blinked at her stupidly and Cordelia huffed before rolling her eyes and scooping up her books. Turning away, she headed out into the hallway, Xander falling into step behind her. "What? You think I don't notice the way you look at me? If you had lasers for eyes, most of my shirts and pants would have holes in them." He wasn't that obvious… was he? Well that was a stupid question, wasn't it? Obviously he was. "I had absolutely no clue what to go as for Halloween but I knew I couldn't just stay home without looking bad with the girls because Halloween is a pretty big party night. And obviously I had to have a good costume because hello, Cordelia Chase here. Then we got into that argument before class last week and so I had a moment of brilliance: who better to make sure I looked hot than someone who spends most of his waking hours fantasizing about me?" Wow, somebody had an ego. As if anyone would think about her that much. He spent maybe a third of his time fantasizing about her. Which, while putting her above assorted Cordettes and that creepy but hot goth girl Laura, left her sitting a goodly bit below a certain blonde Slayer. "So I made the bet, made sure you wouldn't go over the line, and then threw the quiz just to make sure things would turn out the way I wanted them. And it did. So, cough it up. What am I going as? Xena? I do have the tan and the hair and all. Wonder Woman? Some comic book character I've never heard of?"

     Cordelia looked over at him curiously and Xander hesitated a moment before shaking his head. It had taken him most of the period to come to this decision and her enthusiasm for some of the options he'd dismissed almost had him reconsidering it… but no. He could never properly repay Jesse for failing him, but this would be a good start. "Actually, none of the above. You're going to be an alien. A Star Wars alien, to be precise."

     The curious look on Cordelia's face wavered, shifting to disbelief followed by shock and then irritation as he failed to announce he was joking or anything along those lines. "You want me to be… what?"

     Brushing past Cordelia, Xander gestured for the brunette to follow him and began walking towards the library. "You remember Jesse, right? About my height, brown hair, had a huge crush on you, you treated him like dirt? I think he's technically Angel's vampire brother or something, since they were turned by the same skanky blonde…"

     "Woah, slow down there. That's where Jesse went? He got turned into a vampire?" Xander nodded and Cordelia thought for a second before tossing another question out for him to answer. "Wait, Angel's a vampire? Isn't Buffy supposedly some kind of Slayer? Of vampires? Isn't that a conflict of interest? And necrophilia?"

     Xander snorted at that. "Preaching to the choir there. On both parts. But yes, this really old vampire named Darla turned Jesse. Then he came and attacked you in the Bronze. I ended up distracting him. Any of this ringing a bell yet?" Cordelia nodded slowly. "I had to stake him. Kill him. If I hadn't, he would have killed you… probably turned you so he could keep you forever… and me and Willow too."

     Shuddering, Cordelia hugged her books to her chest as they walked. "Ugh. Pass. I'd go insane as a vampire. No tanning, no mirrors… and despite what you hear, some cheerleaders do eat. I happen to be one of them. A liquid diet is more Harm's thing. But… I think we're getting a bit off topic, aren't we? I mean, what does this have to do with why you're trying to make me dress up as some kind of funky Star Trek-"

     "Star Wars."

     "-alien for Halloween?"

     "Are you sure you didn't earn that sixty-eight on the quiz, Cordy?" Xander met the glare the cheerleader sent his way, holding her gaze until she finally looked away. "It's simple. This is the first Halloween since Jesse died. There's one alien species he really liked. You're the girl he really liked. So I want you to dress up as that alien so that wherever he is, he can look down and drool one last time. And I'm not even going to make it hard for you and insist on something really specific. You can do whatever you want for your outfit, as long as you go as a Togruta."

     Letting out a massive sigh, Cordelia passed Xander and used her shoulder to shove the library door open. He followed, waiting for her to hop up on the edge of a table before dumping his backpack into one of the chairs around it. "You should run for office when you're old enough. Because somehow I just went from 'no way in hell' to thinking I'd be the world's biggest bitch if I dared to say no. I hate you." Not quite the reaction he'd been going for but if it meant she'd shut up and dress up, he wasn't going to argue. "Fine. Let's see what kind of weirdness you're sticking me with. And what are you going as for Halloween?" Xander raised an eyebrow and she shrugged. "It might be better than this. I might decide to actually lower myself to begging to doing a couple's costume with you. Without the couple part, that is. Because if my choices are dating you or funky alien, I'm ready for my close encounter."

     Xander wandered over and booted up one of the library's three computers, still not quite sure how the school had managed to get Giles to accept them. But while the Brit's technophobia was amusing, he was here on a mission. And seeing as how he had to wait on the computer before he could continue… "Actually, I'm mostly done with a costume already… or at least I was at any rate. Not that it took much work. My Uncle Jack is in the Air Force. I have a set of his older BDUs that still have his name tape on them and rank pins for a colonel, plus a set of his dog tags. And he gave me a few tips on what kind of stuff he used to wear out in the field. Set me back a bit, but I got it all in one raid at the local army surplus store." Xander snorted; 'a bit' was relative for both of them. For him, the hundred bucks he'd dropped on the tactical vest alone had set him back more than he'd planned to spend on his entire costume when he'd first come up with the idea. Cordelia, on the other hand, could probably afford to buy them for every girl on the cheerleading squad without even blinking. Not that she'd ever have a reason to, but she could. Thankfully, his uncle had bought him a copy of the watch that he wore himself for his last birthday; if Xander had wanted to be that authentic, it would have set him back another two hundred. "All that's left for me to get is a gun or two. Probably cheap plastic, since Airsoft is a bit too pricey for me." That and, unlike the vest, he couldn't really justify spending money on an Airsoft gun. The vest could hold stakes and knives and holy water and all sorts of other stuff to take out patrolling, especially if Buffy decided to run off to Los Angeles for the summer again. The Airsoft gun… normal guns weren't even effective against vampires, what use would a fake gun that shot tiny plastic pellets be?

     "Uh… huh. So GI Joe, basically. Think I'll pass on being GI Jane. Camo really isn't my color… colors… pattern… whatever. It's not for me." As Windows finally finished loading, Xander sliding into the chair in front of the computer and launching Internet Explorer, Cordelia wandered over to stand behind him. "Although I probably just jinxed myself by turning it down and this is going to be one hideous alien you've picked for me."

     As he sent the browser hurtling off into cyberspace towards the official Star Wars website, Xander felt obligated to point something out. "Even if you did want to be GI Jane, I never agreed you could be. I won, you lost, I get to pick, and this is what I'm picking." Leaving Cordelia to chew on that one for the time being, Xander navigated slowly through the site's Databank, finally locating the entry for Shaak Ti. Pulling up her entry, he twisted to one side so Cordelia could get a good look. "Togruta."

     Cordelia leaned in to get a better look and grimaced. "Did I say GI Jane wasn't for me? Can I be GI Jane? Please?"

     Shaking his head, Xander reached forward and tapped the screen. "Nuh uh. We bet that the winner could dress the loser. You decided it was a good idea to throw the quiz to see what I'd dress you as. This is what I want you to be for Halloween. So… are you going to be a woman of your word or do I need to squeal to all your Cordettes about how you chickened out on me and let them bug you?" Actually her being a willing party to this would become important if any of the others decided to try and pull out on him, making the threat entirely empty, but she didn't need to know that…

     "Fu-uck." Cordelia scowled and leaned back again, arms crossing over her chest as she glared at the screen. "You know, you're lucky I don't have a time machine or something. And I will get my revenge. I don't know when and I don't know how, but I'm going to get you for this." Turning, she stomped over to the table she'd been sitting on and reclaimed her books before departing the library. As the door swung back and forth slowly, Xander let out a sigh of relief before pulling up another entry in the Databank and sending it to the printer. He debated printing another page or two but opted to bookmark those instead.

     Now, assuming nobody had spontaneously developed Willow-itis over the past few days, he had three girls to go break some bad news to…



     Whistling softly to himself as he walked down the hallway, Xander looked back and forth as he mentally reviewed the list of people he needed to find. Then, peeking out from beneath an open locker door, he spotted an ass he'd been admiring on the way into Chemistry earlier that day. At least he was pretty sure it was the girl he was looking for. While he knew the distressing on the back pockets was done at the factory and that two girls could theoretically own identical pairs of jeans, what were the odds of another girl filling them out quite as well? "Aphrodesia! How's my favorite non-Buffy blonde? And one of these days, I really do need to find a good nickname for you. That name of yours is a mouthful."

     There was a loud groan and then the locker door closed to reveal Aphrodesia Michaelis, who ran one hand through her blonde hair before sighing and shooting him an irritated look. "Hmm. 'That's a mouthful'. I bet that's something you're never going to be told." Ooh, zing. Not. Xander snorted; Cordy was capable of handing out worse insults while half-distracted by a cell phone call. He'd give her points for trying, though. "And if we were friends - which we're not and never will be - I'd let you call me Sia. Kinda like 'see ya'. Which is what I'd love to be saying to you right now. So let's get to the part where you tell me what you want, and then I can go ahead and do that."

     Xander held up his quiz, grinning as Aphrodesia swore silently. "Oh, I'm just here to show off this here eighty-nine. Kinda curious if you managed to find one of those eleven scores that would beat it. So, inquiring minds want to know… English, Sia. Do you speak it?"

     "Yes. Obviously not as well as you, though. I got a seventy-six. Which isn't really a surprise to me, since I know I suck at English." Aphrodesia adopted a faintly disgusted, far off look for a moment before coming back to herself and scowling at Xander. "You should know too, or does Rosenberg not tell her little boyfriend anything about her tutoring schedule?"

     Pulling a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket, Xander shook his head at the blonde. "You can't have it both ways, you know. I'm either dating Willow or I'm the loser who can't get within ten feet of a girl. Which is it, Sia?" Xander watched the cheerleader's mouth open and close several times before closing one last time and staying shut. "Anyways, no, I'm not surprised. I just figured I'd be polite and ask instead of assuming I'd beaten you. If it makes you feel better, though, you beat Cordelia." That did indeed make Aphrodesia perk up, eliciting a chuckle from Xander. "Moving on… read it and weep."

     Aphrodesia hesitated for a moment before reaching out and taking it. Unsurprisingly, her eyes went straight to the picture in the lower right corner of the page. "Surely you can't be serious."

     "I am serious… and don't call me Shirley." Her glare made Xander momentarily quail but then he rebounded and grinned at her as he bounced on his toes enthusiastically. "What? You set yourself up there. And with the costume. I mean, no offense but it's your own fault that you're stuck dressing up. You're the one who made the bet; nobody forced you to. Especially a bet based on what even you know is your worst subject. Which brings me to a really good question. What on Earth possessed you to do it, Sia?"

     Again Xander found himself watching as Aphrodesia floated off into introspection, this time for over a minute before finally answering his question. "Honestly? There's no actual Cordette handbook but there are plenty of unwritten rules and I barely follow most of them. I only date guys if I like them, I'm not big on putting out, and I don't show much skin. Hell, I wasn't even planning to go to any of the Halloween parties I was invited to; my mother already promised she'd call me out sick on Halloween so I could stay home that night without Cordy being able to get mad at me."

     Xander snorted in amusement. "You say that like you honestly think she'll care whether or not you have a good excuse for disobeying her. Didn't she yell at a girl for not being practice because she'd dislocated her knee the day before?"

     "You're thinking of Joy Wilmshurst. Cordy's not nearly that bad." When he raised an eyebrow at that, Aphrodesia sighed. "Okay, she's a bit of a cheertator but she's not quite that bad. Anyways, it was supposed to be this brownie point, insurance policy sort of thing. If I bet with you and I won but Cordy lost, I could threaten you to make sure you didn't do anything too horrible to her and that would buy me some breathing room with Cordy about the rules. Except we both lost and so now I'm stuck facing weird blue alien skankdom. Ugh. I thought you were going to make me be like… Supergirl or something. Can't I be Supergirl?" Striking a pose, she reached up to play with her blonde hair. "I already have the look down…"

     While it was an interesting idea - and would have dovetailed nicely with Cordelia going as Wonder Woman - Xander was really liking this group Star Wars idea he'd come up with. "Nope. Sorry. But if you think this is bad, wait till you see what I have Cordelia going as. At least you're all one color. If you want to be, that is. You can get creative and do stripes or swirls if that's your thing, or you can take the easy way out by just picking your favorite color and brushing it on. She's red with some white and blue stripes. Very patriotic."

     Aphrodesia grimaced at his description and looked back down at the paper she was holding. It probably didn't seem so bad now, he figured. And it'd seem even better after she actually saw what a Togruta looked like. At least her own costume only had two lekku, and there were no montrals to deal with. "Fine. But I'm going to be lilac. Or lavender. Something puple-ish. And I'm not wearing leather. Or, well, anything that revealing."

     As she tried to pass the paper back, Xander waved her off. "Keep it. And that's fine. You can be any Twi'lek you want to be; I just printed out Aayla because she was the most dressed out of all the ones I found on the Star Wars website." That made Aphrodesia grimace again, not that he could blame her. For someone who didn't like to show skin, the fact that Aayla was the most covered representative of the species in question must not have seemed promising. Deciding to flee while the getting was good, Xander looked around. "Just out of curiosity… you wouldn't happen to know where Nikki Bell is, would you?"

     "Nicole? Why do you care…" Trailing off, Aphrodesia's eyes widened. "How many of us did you make this bet with?"

     "Let's just say that you and Cordy aren't exactly going to be standing out on Halloween."



     "Eighty-nine."

     "Crap. I got an eighty-eight. So close, yet so far away. And I suppose a deal's a deal, even if it's a deal with you." Tossing her head to get her chin length blonde hair out of her face, Nicole Bell eyed Xander warily. He just smiled back at her but found it hard to keep the smug look from his face; he had no doubt that she knew she wasn't going to be the only one dressing up for him on Halloween. "So, what form of nerdtastic torture are you cursing me with for Halloween? Comics? Some kind of weird fantasy, elves and dwarves and dragons sort of thing? Sci-fi? Ooh, is it sci-fi? Because Star Trek would be kinda cool. I could go as a Vulcan. They're kinda like super smart space elves, you know, with the pointy ears and all. And it wouldn't be the first time I've dressed up as one, either. My dad's a Trekkie. I'm pretty sure the only reason he had me was so he could spend stupid amounts of money dressing up for Halloween. First five years of my life, he was the captain and I was his little Vulcan first officer. Which reminds me, if we're doing this, I'm only down for the old school uniform. You know, the cute little dress, not the weird jumpsuit. And I want it in red. Yellow makes me look like I'm diseased and blue is… well, I suppose I'd settle for blue if you won't let me be red. Oh, and don't think that this means I like Star Trek or anything. I'm just throwing it out there because I'm worried about what you might come up with on your own. The devil you know and all that."

     Xander stared at her with wide eyes, wondering when he'd fallen into an episode of The Twilight Zone. Two straight cheerleaders had asked him to be superheroines for Halloween, one of them also tossing out Xena as a possibility, and now a third was suggesting Star Trek. And knew enough about the show to know about Vulcans, the uniforms from the different seasons, and what colors they came in. But as hot as the mental image of her as a Vulcan was, he already had a plan for… well, not her in particular yet, but Cordy and her followers as a whole. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Nikki, but you'll have to wait until next year to be a Vulcan for the sixth time. You're going as part of the other half. Star Wars, that is. Don't worry, though, you'll have company. Cordy's going as a Togruta and Sia's gonna be a Twi'lek. I'm not sure what species you're going to end up as yet; lemme get back to you on that."

     Scrunching her nose up in disgust, Nicole shuddered. "You say that like any I'd be happy with any of them. Ugh. Gross. So basically I'm getting all the negatives of dressing up as something geeky without the positive of being able to get my dad all enthusiastic because it's Star Trek, which would lead to him paying for things for me. Happy happy, joy joy." Taking a step towards him, she poked Xander's chest hard. "Just so you know, though, if my dad disowns me for joining 'the enemy'? I'm making you take me in."

     "You say that like you think I'd be upset with that situation." Xander's head was abruptly rocked forward as Nicole reached up and swatted him hard. Okay, fine, the comment had been a little forward of him but still! "Oww! God, why are the cute ones always violent?"

     "You think I'm cute?"

     "…you know what, just when I think I have them figured out, something happens and I realize I don't understand girls. At all."



September 26, 2003



     "…so all we'd have to do is find you the paint and some very blue contacts. You can see her eyes there, right? The darker bits are a very careful pattern; I have no clue how you could do that easily, but you girls know more about art and makeup than I do. I'm sure you can figure something out, right?"

     "I guess. It's not bad, compared to what you showed me for Cordy and Sia."

     "Well, Cordy's a special case but I was going to hand out Twi'lek to whoever I saw first. Be glad it took me this long to find you. Now, Mallory, you're on the swim team, right? I have a few ideas for you now but I want to think things over a bit. So unless you're set on buying things this weekend?" The diminutive brunette shook her head and Xander sighed in relief. "Cool. Reminds me, I need to pick something for Nikki too. I didn't have enough ideas ready because even I didn't think I'd beat this many of you."

     Clearing her throat, Cordelia drew attention to where she was standing near the library doors, bookended by Aphrodesia and Nicole. "Now let's be honest with ourselves here, dweeb. You didn't actually beat me on your own. I let you beat me because this whole bet of mine was a setup and I didn't trust you to win it on your own."

     Xander just shrugged her words off. "You say potato, I say… how's that Togruta costume of yours coming, Cordy?" Twisting in his seat to face her, he jerked a thumb back over his shoulder at Aura. "And I wouldn't exactly go around admitting that whole 'threw the quiz' thing considering at least one of these girls only made the bet because they thought you might lose and if they beat me, they could blackmail me into going easy on you. Actually, just out of curiosity… show of hands on that one?"

     Opening her mouth, Cordelia froze when Aura's hand went up, followed shortly thereafter by Aphrodesia's and Nicole's. Wow. Three out of the four of them had done it for her? Now she actually felt the tiniest bit bad about her scheming. Granted it was their own fault because they were the ones behind why she needed a killer costume in the first place, but still. Did they really deserve to be dragged into nerddom because of their loyalty to her? Although speaking of loyalty to her… she eyed Mallory. Given that cheerleading's year-round 'season' kept girls from participating in both it and another sport the way some enjoyed doubling or tripling up with fall, winter, or spring sports, the svelte diver was someone who - while popular enough - existed largely outside her sphere of influence. Which raised a question. "What happened to you?"

     "Oh, I wasn't stupid enough to bet on my grades. I was just with Aura when he found her and followed along. Then he mentioned you and Sia and Nicole-"

     "Nikki." Attention turned to the bottle blonde and she shrugged. "Xander kept calling me that yesterday and I realized that I've been thinking about switching to a cuter, more cheerleadery name and that even if it was a nickname from him, it was a good nickname and so I decided that I'm going to be Nikki from now on." As she finally petered out, she looked around and then shrank back at the strange looks she was getting. "Which… isn't really important, is it?"

     "Not really, but good to know." After a brief pause, Mallory shook her head as she tried to remember what she'd been saying. "Anyways, Xander mentioned you and Sia and Nikki had all lost the same bet, plus obviously Aura, and so I decided that if he was going to be turning you into a group costume, I might as well let him dress me too. After all, even if it was something bad that looked horrible, the most popular girls in school would be wearing it too and so I'd still look good. Kinda. You know what I mean. So… tada. Here I am."

     Cordelia blinked at that. The girl had pretty much called her - and the other girls - stupid, but she was the one volunteering to join in on something that the rest of them had to be forced into doing. So really, which one of them was actually the stupid one? She did have some good logic going for her, though, but on the other hand… "You have seen what the rest of us are getting stuck with, right?" Mallory opened her mouth to answer but Cordelia waved her off. "Rhetorical, dear. Well, it's your funeral. After seeing what Sia and I got stuck with, I'm pretty sure it can only go downhill from here."

     Coughing into her hand, Aura drew Cordelia's attention to her. "Actually, all I have to do is paint whatever skin I leave showing. And wear contacts. You and Sia just got unlucky."

     Cordelia's jaw dropped in disbelief and Aura gestured to the computer Xander was sitting at. The brunette crossed the room with angry strides, grabbing the back of Xander's chair and tilting it sideways to dump him onto the floor so she could claim his seat. He had pulled up some sort of behind the scenes article showing off how they'd transformed one actress into her character. And sure enough, the only thing to it was a bit of paint and freaky blue contacts. Well, and the clothes obviously but she wasn't focusing on that yet. "I'm not sure which of you I hate more right now."

     "Yeah, well, if I share my little piece about why you're dressing up the way you are, are you going to fill in the rest of the details for your girls?" Cordelia looked at Xander strangely as he clambered back to his feet and he rolled his eyes before miming… stabbing himself? Oh! Staking! If he told them about Jesse, was she going to… oh hell no. She shook her head vehemently. There was no way in hell she was going to try and convince her friends vampires were real. They'd think she was insane and nobody wanted to be friends with the crazy girl. She'd end up as popular as Willow. Wait, the redhead had Buffy and Xander. She'd do the barely possible and end up less popular. No thank you. "If anyone has a reason to complain, it's Sia because she got screwed by being the first not-you loser I found. Which reminds me, if you can talk anyone in to swapping with you…"

     Surprisingly enough, the blonde just shrugged ambivalently at the offer. "Well, I went home and looked them up on the Internet. I'm not too thrilled about the slavery thing but I do like the graceful and exotic dancer thing. I'll live. Besides, name someone other than me or Cordelia who could actually dress up like that and make it look good. I mean, if you really want I could swap with Harmony or something…"

     Xander opened his mouth, paused, and then shuddered. Then he shuddered again before finally speaking. "No. Just… no. And actually, you couldn't. I didn't make a bet with her." All the girls turned to stare at him incredulously and he squirmed defensively. "What? It's Harmony. It would have been like showing up to a knife fight with a machine gun. Where's the thrill of victory in that?"

     "You know, I have noticed that it's less fun making her look stupid than it is with the rest of my friends. Huh. I guess you're right." Cordelia shook her head; as amusing a diversion as all this was, it wasn't why she'd come to the library. Clumsily poking her way through the Star Wars website, she eventually made her way back to the page he'd shown her the day before. "Okay, savor this moment because it's not going to happen again in your lifetime. I need your help. I'll do this because I said I would, but I have no clue how to. And I'm pretty sure that Sia needs helps with her head… tail… thingies…"

     "Lekku." Cordelia blinked and peered up at Aphrodesia. "What? I just said I looked my species up last night. The things you're talking about. They're called lekku."

     Letting out a low whistle, Xander gave the blonde a thumbs up. "Way to get your geek on, Sia. Glad to see one of you is starting to get into the spirit of it all." As she blushed - whether it was due to being praised or the reason behind it, Cordelia wasn't quite sure - Xander turned his attention back to the leader of the pack. "What's in it for me? Apart from making sure you don't look stupid, that is, which seems more like something in it for you."

     Cordelia pondered that for a moment before looking down and then crossing her arms under her breasts. "Let's see. Oh, durr, obvious. You're a hormonal teenage male. Help me figure out the neck up parts and I'll get something nice and cleavagey for the neck down part." Granted then she'd have more exposed skin to paint that weird orange-red-brown color, but she'd make that sacrifice if it meant not looking stupid. Because he was so right: the woman from the movie looked pretty in a strange, exotic sort of way and if she was stuck doing this, that was what she wanted too.

     Leaning in, Xander stared down at her for a moment before raising one eyebrow. "And, uh, how would that be any different from what you normally wear? Seriously, your wardrobe is so cleavagey, I'm pretty sure the blind kid down in the special ed wing knows about that one birthmark of yours."

     "I'm starting to wonder if you two actually hate each other or if this is some kind of weird foreplay and someone's about to end up sprawled out on their back on the library table…" Mallory's quiet comment had Xander leaping backwards even as Cordelia moved her arms, crossing them instead over her chest to cut off any view of the skin exposed by her barely daring - by her standards - neckline. "What? Am I seriously the only one who sees it?"

     "Now that you mention it…"

     "Actually, if we're bringing up awkward sexual tension, I've kinda wondered about her and Summers…"

     "Ugh, no way. Not that she couldn't do… you know… if she wanted to. I would just think she'd have better taste. That girl is a train wreck."

     Cordelia twisted one way, then the other, trying to keep up with the rapid-fire conversation. They thought her and… or her and… eww! On both counts. "Next person here who says I have the hots for anyone has to date that person or I'm kicking them out of the group." The room abruptly went silent and she preened for a moment; who was the queen? Oh yeah, she was the queen. "Now, seriously. Xander, I need help with my costume and since you want me to dress this way because of you-know-why, you should help me. But since I know you're not going to do it for free, I'm asking you… what do you want to be in it for you?" A nudge to her shoulder made her look up at an expectant Aphrodesia, who stared down at Cordelia until comprehension dawned. "Oh, right. Fine, what do you want in exchange for helping me and any other girl who needs it?"

     Almost immediately, Xander held up two fingers before hesitating, thinking for a moment, and then adding a third. "Three things. One: money. Not much and some of it might even be for shared supplies. I'm going to dress up the same as all of you, I've decided, and I'm not exactly rolling in it. I need a little help." Cordelia nodded; simple enough. She could probably finance the entire group's makeover off this month's allowance if she wanted to, so diverting a bit to his wallet in exchange for help was no big deal. "Two: help on at least the day of and one other day. Someone to dye my hair and someone to do some skin painting for my face, neck, and hands. It doesn't have to be you, but you do have to find someone to help me." She nodded again; she could force some minion to do that if he - or she - couldn't talk one of his little friends into it. "Three: your help screwing Harmony over. At least you're smart enough to make our arguments fun. She's just a pain to deal with. And really, do you want her to have a fun and normal Halloween when you're stuck with me?"

     Cordelia considered that. Good point. Very good point. "Nothing complicated for her costume-wise. You already have your hands full with the rest of us."

     "Works for me."

     "Then deal."



     "Fear is the path to the Dark Side…"

     A chuckle from his right startled Xander, making him jump and spin to face a brunette girl half a foot shorter than him. Grinning, she used one finger to prod her black wireframe glasses a bit higher up on her nose before nodding in Harmony's direction. "Too pathetic to be scary, Harmony is. Fear her, you should not."

     Xander boggled at her for a moment before laughing loudly. "Hmm. Small point deduction for not coming through with the following line to start a quote fest, but on the other hand you get lots of points for the most excellent Yoda imitation." Deciding to see if luck would stay on his side with this new, very pretty and indisputably geeky girl he'd just met, Xander held out his hand. "I'm Xander."

     "I'm… well aware." He blinked at her as he retracted his hand, trying to place her. Common class? No. Had he run her over in the halls? No, she was cute enough that he'd remember that. Pulling his hand back slowly, his brain whirled as it tried to figure out the mystery it'd been given. Finally she took pity on him and, giggling softly, reached up to remove her glasses. "Now add a maroon, gold, and white uniform, switch the ponytail up for some pigtails, and throw in a pair of pom-poms."

     Eyebrows rising almost to his hairline, Xander let out a low whistle as his brain followed her instructions, transforming the rather plain girl in front of him into a more familiar - and considerably more attractive - cheerleader. Becki Bryant. He definitely recognized her now, not just from games but from the role she played. She was the cheerleading squad's pet brain; the token brainy one that they kept around because it minimized their need to draw on the school's limited supply of tutors to maintain passing grades. The fact that Aphrodesia had been forced to work with Willow last year had been a testament to how overtaxed the brunette had been trying to keep her friends afloat. It had never occurred to him - even though he knew she was incredibly smart - that she might be a geek like him. "Huh. I did not see that coming. I… would say I thought you were too cool and pretty to like Star Wars except that basically means saying I'm dorky and ugly for liking it. And since I get put down enough by Cordy and her friends and don't need to do it myself, let's move on. Say… have you heard what happened to Cordy and the others yet?"

     Becki nodded before looking uncertain. "You're talking about the Star Wars thing, right? Yeah. I'd be jealous you didn't ask me, but it's kinda hard to compete on the same quiz when you're in academic track classes and I'm in accelerated. Oh well. Perils of being the smart one, I guess. Maybe I'll volunteer just to be part of the group. Why, though? Here to collect on Harmony? Isn't betting on her academic performance kinda… mean?"

     "I know, right? That's what I told the girls when they asked me if I'd made the same bet with Harmony." Rubbing his hands together, Xander grinned at Becki before looking over at Harmony. "No, I'm here to… well, she's about to be sucked in but not because of a bet we've made. Yet. Wanna come along for the ride and watch the master at work?"
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