Ethan centers himself, grounds his power; he drags the athame across his palm and draws breath to begin his chant to Janus, and--
"Ewwww! You're bleeding!" says a voice behind him.
Crap. I thought I'd locked the shop door. He clenches his bleeding hand into his jacket pocket, and goes to help his last customer of the evening.
She wants a hooker outfit. "But, you know, a high-class hooker."
He eyes her up and down. "You know, if you skipped the modifier, you could just keep your current outfit."
She pops her gum, gives him a bovine stare, and eventually rejoinders, "What?"
"Oh, for--here. One high-class hooker's outfit. Gratis."
She blinks at him. "That means free," he says. "Your reward for being--my last customer. Now, run along. Shoo, shoo."
He chivvies her out the door and firmly locks it. "Now," he says to the quiet shop, "if the universe would permit a man to finish a dread ritual in peace..."
Jonathan drops by Tucker and Andrew's house to show off his costume, and because their mom always has Tootsie Roll Pops.
"Sweet," Tucker says, checking out his Star Fleet Officer outfit. "You go by that new shop?"
"Nope, I got this at a con last year," Jonathan says. "I didn't want to spend any money right now, because there's a new series of Magic cards coming out soon, and--"
"But it's a red shirt," Andrew interrupts.
Jonathan draws himself up to his full 5'4". "That's all they had left. And it's fallacious to think that the red shirts never survive. In season two--"
"Yeah, but did one ever survive an away mission?"
"It's not like there's a rule. It's theoretically possible for a red shirt to survive."
"It's theoretically possible for monkeys to fly out of my butt!" Andrew squeals.
"Jesus, guys," Tucker says, "shut up and eat your candy, okay?"
Jonathan wanders through Sunnydale for a while after the Great Red Shirt debate, feeling lucky every time one of his classmates walks by trailing a gaggle of little kids. Once in a while his talent for being unnoticed comes in handy--the principal had never even glanced at him when handing out "volunteer" assignments.
He turns a corner and gapes, because coming down the sidewalk is another teenager unburdened with little kids, and it's a good thing too, because it's Harmony and boy you can see a lot of her. More than usual. And she doesn't usually dress like a nun or anything, but now you look there and it's Harmony, and you look at that spot and it's still more Harmony, and oh god there is not much clothing and really really much Harmony.
He blinks at her. What little there is of her shirt appears to be several red sequins held together with fishing line. "Hey, we match!" he blurts, and then thinks oh crap because she's one of the Cordettes and he's managed to stay under their radar for the last several years. Very little interaction since that fourth-grade incident when he had to spend the entire school day with a Hostess Ho-ho smushed in his underwear. But now he's spoken to one of them and he is so screwed.
Harmony puts her hands on her hips, which sets up an interesting sort of figure-eight motion in the, um, two topmost sequins, and sneers at him, and opens her mouth, no doubt to pronounce his utter social doom, and--
A shimmer in the air rolls and crests and crashes over them, something that starts golden and turns dark. The smell of the night changes from leafmold to something old and musky, with a dry electrical buzz running through it.
"What--what just happened?" he says to Harmony, and realizes that she's smiling at him. Smiling at him and walking right up to him until they're almost touching noses.
He closes his eyes and waits for the Hostess Ho-ho.
When a good long time has passed and nothing's gotten crammed down his pants he opens his eyes again and she's still there, and she kisses him.
This is just the weirdest geek abuse ever, he thinks, but then he can't keep himself from kissing her back. She tastes like Jolly Ranchers.
She pulls back after a long minute and dazzles a smile at him again. "Uh--hello?" he says. "You am Bizarro Harmony?"
"I charge," she says, "well, I dunno--whatever Julia Roberts did in Pretty Woman. Plus, you know, inflation. A whole lot per hour."
He's trying hopelessly to sort out what the heck she's talking about when a little kid runs past. He could swear that same kid passed him wearing a Nixon mask a few minutes ago. But now the kid seems to have honest-to-god five-o'-clock shadow, and is shrieking, "Martha Mitchell is a CUNT!" What is going on?
"Look, have you got the money or not?" Harmony says, and on the theory that if he just plays along something will make sense any minute now, he says, "I can borrow my mom's Amex."
"That'll do," she says, cocks her head and bats her eyelashes. "Where should we go?"
Oh, there's the hook, he thinks. She's gonna lead me off somewhere and the Cordettes and jocks will be waiting to--dump pig's blood on me, or something.
"Here's good!" he says.
"Not my usual thing, but hey, you're the boss!" she says brightly, and shrugs.
The shrug makes her two topmost sequins do a polka, and while he's distracted by that she grabs his shoulders and leaps on him, and then he's flat on his back on somebody's lawn and Harmony is unzipping his pants. "Hey, stop!" he says, but now she's got her hand in there, and he should be fleeing because this is obviously some very complicated social-humiliation plot, but he can't because he's too busy thinking, wow, she's taller than me but her hand feels so much smaller than mine and really really soft, and then she pulls her micro-mini up about a half-inch to reveal a complete lack of underwear and then oh my God she's lowering down on him and he stops thinking anything at all.
"GLARK!" he says. Or something like that.
He lasts about a minute and a half before his brain explodes, along with other bits. But when the Roman candles clear out of his head she's still there.
Okay, so I'm hallucinating. GREAT! he thinks, and manages to stagger with his pants around his knees to a slightly darker portion of the street, with some hedges for cover, and pulls Harmony along to hallucinate about some more.
They try every more or less standard thing he can think of, and he's happy to discover he has a pretty great recovery time. Every now and then there's a howl or a scream from somewhere down the street, but he's really not sparing a lot of brain cells to wonder what they are.
He's starting to think of branching out into Penthouse-letters stuff, but has no idea where they'd find a live chicken at this hour, when--
The wave of musk in the air rolls back, the electrical buzz fades. In the distance a wolfy howl changes to a child's shriek.
And Harmony stops riding his tongue and sits back on his chest, hard, knocking the breath out of him.
"Oh my god! What just--it's you. You're--whatshisname! What did you just DO?" She looks around at their dirt-streaked skin and flung clothes. "Were you raping me?"
"That wouldn't usually involve you sitting on my face," he says, quite reasonably he thinks, but she gives him a much-more-familiar-than-the-smile Evil Harmony Look.
Before she can strangle him, though, there's a rustle in the hedge and then a face peering over it. It's a very pale face, with blazing pale hair, and it opens its mouth, which has FANGS, and it says, "Hello, children." It has an English accent. But not BBC Dr. Who English--scary English.
Jonathan thinks, I didn't know a voice could swagger.
The thing comes around the hedge and hunkers gracefully down next to them on the lawn, smiling away with those teeth. "Well," it says, and looks Harmony up and down. Harmony actually giggles. Oh, you IDIOT. Jonathan thinks. We're going to DIE! NAKED!
"Well," it says again. "It looks like you've already done the 'love' portion of the evening's entertainment. So why don't I do a spot of 'rhetoric' and we can move right on to the 'blood'?"
Jonathan looks at those gleaming teeth and tries to breathe. I haven't understood a single thing anyone's said to me tonight. I'm going to die naked and really, really confused.
"Um," he says, "can we do love and rhetoric without the blood?"
"Oh dear no," the thing says, "the blood is compulsory, children," and it leans in toward them, and idiot Harmony is lifting her hair away from her neck, and then the thing tilts its head like it's listening. It stays like that for a moment, snaps "Bloody hell," and just rises and runs, leather coat flapping.
They lie in a sweaty heap for a minute, then somebody else sprints past--Buffy? in a ball gown?--screaming, "I'm not DONE with you, ASSHOLE!" and waving a pointy stick.
"Wow," Jonathan says. "They got even kinkier than we did."
Harmony leaps up and starts yanking her clothes on. "If you EVER--mention--whatever this was--to ANYBODY--"
"Like they'd believe me," he says, and she snarls and stomps off.
But when he's collecting his clothes he finds a couple of short, tightly curled blonde hairs stuck to his Starfleet shirt. He is so keeping those. Maybe he'll show them to Andrew.
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