Dawn remembers it like this: Buffy came home with a beautiful dress for Halloween, prettier than anything Dawn had ever even seen, much less worn. The next day, after school, her mom took her to the same costume shop. Dawn looked around the shop looking for something beautiful and princess-like, but most of the nice things were gone, and Dawn had zero desire to be some kind of ewok knock-off.
A man came around a display of hanging wigs. “Can I help you find anything?” he asked Dawn. He asked Dawn, not her mom, even though her mom was just a couple feet behind her looking at feather boas. He was English, Dawn guessed from his accent, and his eyes were very dark.
“I wanted a princess dress,” Dawn said. “Like Buffy. That’s my sister,” she added, flushing.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?” His words were precise, his voice rumbling and warm.
He sounded so skeptical; her rock-solid certainty of a few minutes ago crumbled. “Yeah? I mean, I want to be pretty.”
“Hmm,” the man said, and the last of Dawn’s resolve vanished. “I would have thought a girl like you—” He paused significantly, and Dawn’s breath caught. “—would want something with a bit more zest.”
Dawn was immediately, utterly certain that zest was what she wanted, whatever it took. The man must have seen it in her eyes; he smiled and turned around, and Dawn meekly followed. The man went behind one of the glass counters and pulled out a knife. Curlicues were etched into the blade, and a giant rhinestone sparkled in the handle. It looked like something Buffy might keep hidden under her bed. Well, minus the rhinestone, maybe.
Dawn didn’t have to be like Buffy as a princess. She could be like Buffy as Buffy.
When the man handed it over to Dawn, though, she realized it wasn’t real. It wasn’t heavy enough, and the blade was dull. She looked doubtfully at the man. His smile never faltered. “You’ll do in many a ghoul and goblin with that, I’ll wager.” He rummaged under the glass again and came up with a necklace of large, clacking beads. “Fit for a warrior queen,” he said, lifting the beads to her neck.
And, okay. Dawn had always been the Xena fan in the family. Fakey knife or not, she was sold.
Halloween was a pretty exciting night for Dawn. When Buffy asked later – in a vague, sideways sort of way, because Buffy still wouldn’t actually talk to Dawn about the stuff Buffy did at night – Dawn said that she and Keisha and Janice decided Halloween was dumb and hung out making cookies in Janice’s kitchen instead. Which is exactly what they did, right after Dawn saved Janice-the-diva and Keisha-the-president from a bunch of demons.
She didn’t actually kill any of the demons, which she was pretty grateful for later. She wondered if killing temporarily demonic second graders was what the man – Ethan, she heard Buffy and Willow talking about him when they thought she couldn’t hear – had meant for her to do. Maybe he was just evil, like they said.
She didn’t really believe it, though. No else ever looked at her and knew she was supposed to be a warrior queen.
Dawn threw out the beads from Ethan’s shop, because they were seriously tacky, but she kept the knife in her underwear drawer for years, right up until her underwear drawer and everything in it fell into a giant sinkhole.
All of which is to say, when Dawn sees Ethan Rayne in Cleveland’s oldest and most reputable demon market, she recognizes him.
Dawn’s strolling through with Marta. They’re not even on patrol; they’re looking for some kind of vegetable Spike insists isn’t actually demonic, but only available in places like this because it’s the Cheeble demons’ preferred starch.
Dawn’s more interested in the jewelry vendors, though. You have to be careful about demon jewelry, because at least half of it's magicked one way or another, in beneficial or not-so-beneficial ways. Or, ways beneficial to demons but not to humans. Still, for every two or three really ugly pieces that make your hair fall out (or your nose), there’s an armband or pendant with a design so striking it makes Dawn want to organize an entire wardrobe around it. Demon fashion: untapped riches.
So Dawn has her head down, looking over pretty bangles and considering how far into the future she can get away with mortgaging her salary/allowance. There’s a pair of earrings she likes, angular and bold. Also, from the way her spidey-senses are tingling, probably cursed. She glances up to ask their price, and stops cold.
It's a human standing behind the table. It’s Ethan. He smiles, smooth and charming just like she remembers, not that she was thinking in quite those terms back when she was eleven. “And what can I do for you?” he asks.
“I’ve seen work like this before,” Dawn says, nodding towards the table.
“Ah, well, I draw quite a bit of inspiration from the moderns. Geometric abstraction, that sort of thing.”
She considers this thoughtfully and then shakes her head. “No, I must be thinking of something else. These—” She taps the earrings. “—remind me of some costuming I saw once.” She eyes him thoughtfully until his smile begins to dim. “There was this little shop in California. Place called Sunnydale?” His eyebrows rise ever so slightly at the name. She sees the moment he remembers her. She’s impressed he does at all; it was a long time ago, and she was a gawky eleven-year-old with generic, eleven-year-old dreams.
The smile comes back, brighter than ever. It’s a bit manic. “Well, I’ve tried my hand at a lot of things over the years.”
Dawn shrugs casually. “There was some pretty nice stuff. I got this wicked knife there.”
“Oh?” He's not relieved, smart man he, but he's interested.
Soon enough, Dawn knows, Marta’s going to come back with a basket full of pink rutabaga-like entities. The simple necessity of making a decision decides her. “So what do you think?” she asks, lifting the earrings on their little card and holding them near her face.
“Mm,” he says thoughtfully. “For you, or for a friend?”
She lifts her chin. “For me,” she says.
He shakes his head with careful deliberation. “I shouldn’t think so,” he says. “Bit garish, don’t you think?”
She fingers the earrings thoughtfully. Finally she shrugs, like it makes no difference to her. “What do you think, then? Because I’m not really big on subtle.” Her blood’s pounding in her ears.
“Aren’t you,” he says. It’s a comment, not a question. A smirk begins to spread. “Well, I’m sure we can find you something more suited than those.”
“Show me,” she says, and waits.